May on collision course with Conservative backbenchers over hard Brexit
As prime minister prioritises control of immigration and withdrawal from EU law, MPs press for deal that would keep UK in single market
Anushka Asthana, Peter Walker and Jon Henley
Monday 3 October 2016 07.12 BST
Theresa May insisted that controlling immigration and withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the European court of justice would be her priorities during EU exit negotiations, the strongest indication yet that she will lean towards a hard Brexit.
On the first day of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, the prime minister pledged to trigger article 50 before the end of March and used her opening speech to spell out that greater border controls would trump any attempt to remain a member of the single market.
Her remarks immediately triggered a pointed response from the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, who tweeted his appreciation of May’s announcement about the timing of the start of the exit talks while warning that the rest of the EU was ready to “safeguard its interests” in the talks to come.
May said: “I want [the deal] to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade and operate in the single market – and let European businesses do the same here.”
She admitted that the negotiations would require some “give and take”, adding: “But let me be clear, we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again and we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European court of justice” – a move that has placed her on a collision course with pro-EU backbenchers.
May laid out plans for a “great repeal bill”, under which four decades of EU legislation would become part of British law and could then be unpicked. However, she insisted that workers’ rights would be guaranteed in law while she was prime minister, although the government would not list any examples of such legislation.
There was a positive reaction in Germany and Italy to a clear timetable. European leaders including the EU commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, have said publicly that Britain must be allowed time to prepare its position.
But, in private talks with the prime minister, all have pushed hard for a clearer idea of plans, particularly because of the need for the UK to complete Brexit before the next elections to the European parliament in 2019.
Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, which will be holding the rotating EU presidency when article 50 is triggered, tweeted that his administration was “geared to handle” the process.
But in another blunt reminder that any attempt by Britain to push for single market privileges while curbing EU immigration was unlikely to succeed, Muscat added that while Malta would be “honest brokers for fair deal”, the four single market freedoms – including movement – “cannot be decoupled”.
May herself attempted to dismiss the term “hard Brexit” on Sunday, alongside that of “soft Brexit”, arguing that they represented a false dichotomy – although it is widely believed that the more the UK insists on immigration control, the more likely EU leaders are to close access to the single market.
Hitting back at those who have argued that parliament should have a say before the process begins, May warned that the public had backed Brexit with “emphatic clarity”.
“So now it is up to the government not to question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do, but to get on with the job,” she said, “because those people who argue that article 50 can only be triggered after agreement in both Houses of Parliament are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it. They’re not trying to get Brexit right; they’re trying to kill it by delaying it. They are insulting the intelligence of the British people.”
Referring to a high court challenge, being heard next week, which questions the government’s right to fire the Brexit starting gun without parliamentary approval, May said the attorney general, Jeremy Wright, would resist the efforts.
But she has placed herself at loggerheads with a number of Conservative backbenchers who want the government to pursue a soft Brexit and think there should be a vote prior to article 50.
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, told the Guardian that he believed strongly that parliament ought to have such a role. He admitted that MPs could not disregard the “advisory” vote but said: “The danger of such an approach is if you undermine the convention in this way you set a very bad precedent. Government is embarking on a difficult and extensive exercise and to do it without the support of parliament is a mistaken approach.”
Anna Soubry, the former Tory business minister, argued that May should be wary of being “gung-ho” on article 50 and said the EU held “most of the cards in negotiations”. She said Britain should be pressing for a deal that keeps the country in the single market.
Within May’s cabinet there are splits, with sources suggesting Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is pushing for the best economic deal with the EU, having told the Telegraph that he believed the “implicit” message from the referendum was the need to protect the country’s economy.
Speaking after May at the conference, the secretary of state for Brexit, David Davis, stressed “the clear message from the referendum is this: we must be able to control immigration”.
He said this would be balanced as best as possible with trade: “We’re looking at all the options. And we’ll be prepared for any outcome. But it certainly won’t be to anyone’s benefit to see an increase in barriers to trade, in either direction.
“So we want to maintain the freest possible trade between us, without betraying the instruction we have received from the British people to take back control of our own affairs.”
Others supporting Brexit were pleased with May’s intervention. Dominic Raab, the former justice minister, said the prime minister had “put some meat on the bones of the Brexit strategy”, offering greater certainty to business.
Meanwhile, Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, has published a paper in which he reveals that negotiators in other countries including France and Germany are preparing to stand their ground in Brexit negotiations. They believe freedom of movement is a central part of the single market and are reluctant to make concessions in other areas.
“She is trying to square a circle and none of us know how she plans to do it, but British companies will not be in the single market if she limits immigration and spurns or rejects ECJ rulings,” said Grant.
On repealing EU law and then unpicking parts of legislation, he added: “The more our laws diverge from those of our partners, the less access we will have to the single market.”
segunda-feira, 3 de outubro de 2016
Theresa May sets Brexit course on hard / May on collision course with Conservative backbenchers over hard Brexit
Theresa May sets Brexit course on hard
UK prime minister sides with her hardliners and makes spring date for EU divorce talks.
By TOM MCTAGUE and CHARLIE COOPER 10/2/16, 10:03 PM CET
BIRMINGHAM — Theresa May used her first address to her party as prime minister to deliver an iron message in a velvet glove: Britain doesn’t want a fight with the EU, but forget any talk of a soft Brexit.
Speaking on the first day of the U.K. Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham Sunday, May looked beyond those in the hall and made it clear to those watching elsewhere in Europe that she would not even discuss the continuation of free movement after Britain’s exit from the EU.
May’s intervention on Sunday is the clearest indication yet that Britain is heading for a hard Brexit outside the European single market. In the battle between Brexit hardliners and Cabinet skeptics such as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, May appears have sided with the first group most closely associated with Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.
If Brexit means anything, May told the Conservative Party conference, it has to mean the full repatriation of political power from Brussels. Anything less was unacceptable. “We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country,” May said. “A country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.”
Brexit, May added, meant having “the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.”
“Let me be clear. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice” — Theresa May
The upshot, if May is good to her word, is a U.K. completely extricated from the Brussels machine and outside the single market and its open borders to labor. In the upcoming Brexit negotiations the only thing left to discuss, according to the prime minister, is the terms on which Britain and Europe continue to trade.
After a summer in which she revealed little more than insisting “Brexit means Brexit” May’s speech was intended to draw a line under the debate about whether Britain would really make a clean break with Brussels. Senior political figures, from Nicolas Sarkozy to the Labour’s Party’s defeated leadership challenger Owen Smith, have raised the prospect of a second referendum to keep Britain in the EU.
May said she would begin the formal process of leaving the EU by the end of March 2017, firing the gun on a two year exit negotiation. She also announced that the government would introduce a Great Repeal Bill, annulling the 1972 European Communities Act which took Britain into the European Union. The bill, which will not come into force until the U.K. formally leaves the EU, would end the primacy of European law in the U.K.
The proposal, in effect, dares Labour and other pro-European MPs — who make up a majority of the House of Commons — to vote against the will of the electorate. If the government was defeated, it would almost certainly trigger a snap general election to give the prime minister a mandate to enact Brexit.
If MPs do vote the bill through, however, May will have a blank check to negotiate the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, with MPs already having given their assent to Brexit.
In May’s address to party activists, she insisted too many people had not accepted the result of the referendum and were beset by “muddled thinking” over the future relationship between Britain and the EU. The prime minister stressed repeatedly that the referendum result had been “clear” and her Government would not “question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do.”
The prime minister said there was “no such thing as a choice between ‘soft Brexit’ and ‘hard Brexit,” insisting this was a false dichotomy “propagated by people who, I am afraid to say, have still not accepted the result of the referendum.”
In rejecting talk of a “soft Brexit” May is all-but rejecting the compromise “Norway option” floated by some pro-Europeans that would see Britain remain in the single market but accept free movement and contributions to the EU budget. May’s claim that this did not, in turn, necessitate a “hard Brexit” is intended to calm fears that Britain will not be able to negotiate a Canadian-stye free trade agreement to take its place.
“The truth is that too many people are letting their thinking about our future relationship with the EU be defined by the way the relationship has worked in the past,” she said.
In an attempt to define Britain’s red lines in negotiations with Brussels, May said the upcoming talks would not be about “negotiating away all our sovereignty again.”
“It is not going to be about any of those matters over which the country has just voted to regain control. It is not, therefore, a negotiation to establish a relationship anything like the one we have had for the last forty years or more.
“It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union.”
The claim — a statement of the obvious in some regards — is designed to bury the prospect of an EU-lite arrangement in which some sovereignty is pooled in return for free trade. It is a nod to her MPs’ Thatcherite dream of an independent, free-market Britain trading openly with the world outside the EU.
This is an opportunity not just to clear the air but to create a more comfortable relationship with you European neighbours that works better for all of us” — Brexit minister David Davis
In May’s brief opening speech to conference ahead of her main address on Wednesday, she dismissed claims there was a “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. “That is the wrong way of looking at things,” she insisted. It was a message her audience wanted to hear, but one also directed at Brussels: Britain wants a free-trade deal, not a messy single market compromise.
She called for a “mature, cooperative relationship” with EU built on free trade, saying she wanted British companies to have “the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market.” But she added: “Let me be clear. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”
May rejected the idea, advocated by hardline Eurosekptics in her party, of a snap Brexit and insisted that Britain would play by the rules while it remained an EU member. “Everything we do as we leave the EU will be consistent with the law and our treaty obligations,” she said.
She repeated a promise, first made in a newspaper interview Sunday, that Britain would invoke Article 50 before April 2017, thereby legally trigger the start of negotiations with Brussels.
Boris and I
Presenting a unified front with Brexit minister David Davis and new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, May sought to project an image of a self-assured U.K., confident of securing a deal from the EU that, while severing all political ties, would be in the economic interests of both.
“We joined a common market, an economic community,” Davis said in his speech. “We’ve never really been comfortable being part of what is in reality a political project. We’re now leaving that project. This is an opportunity not just to clear the air but to create a more comfortable relationship with you European neighbours that works better for all of us.”
Davis was followed by Johnson, whose speech sought to portray Britain as a “soft power superpower.” Johnson insisted that the U.K. would become a global champion of free trade outside the EU, but at the same time pledged to continue cooperation with the bloc on issues of mutual interest, such as sanctions against Russia, and anti-trafficking operations in the Mediterranean.