segunda-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2017

Divide and rule tactics could leave UK without deal, say EU politicians / O "desconforto" dos funcionários britânicos nas vésperas do "Brexit" / Millions of expats caught in Brexit no man’s land

Divide and rule tactics could leave UK without deal, say EU politicians
Britain accused of trying to ‘move the goalposts and do away with the referee’ in Brexit negotiations

Daniel Boffey, Dan Roberts and Jon Henley
Monday 20 February 2017 07.00 GMT

British attempts to “blackmail and divide” EU countries in the run-up to Brexit negotiations will lead to a disastrous “crash-landing” out of the bloc, European politicians have told the Guardian.

They add that the approach being pursued by Theresa May’s government will leave the UK without a free trade deal – with perilous consequences for the country.

Formal talks are due to open next month, but a trio of parliamentary leaders and a close ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, say those talks risk ending in failure unless Britain changes what they say are “divide and rule” tactics.

They believe the situation is further complicated by domestic hardline political and media pressure in the UK, which they argue makes compromise difficult and reinforces the feeling in London that the country will simply get whatever it wants.

A leaked European parliament report seen by the Guardian goes even further, accusing Britain of trying to “move the goalposts and do away with the referee” in the upcoming international clash of negotiators once article 50 is invoked.

At the root of the anger is the belief that Britain does not appreciate that the EU27 nations also have red lines.

“The benefits go to the UK only,” said Tomáš Prouza, the Czech minister for EU affairs. “There is a real danger that British politics, with all its whipped up resentments of Europe, will mean British negotiators are unable to compromise, and we will head for a crash-landing.”

That view is shared in many national capitals. Elmar Brok, a German MEP and a close friend and political ally of Merkel, said the British government should not underestimate the strength of the EU’s resolve. He said colleagues had told him Britain was seeking to win over MEPs, but it would end in failure.

“The British government tries to divide and rule,” he said. “They believe they can take members of parliament out of certain nations … to win support by dividing us. If they try to negotiate while trying to interfere in our side then we can do that too. We can make a big fuss over Scotland. Or Northern Ireland.”

A Guardian series starting today examining Britain’s Brexit gamble reveals the two sides are further apart than ever on issues ranging from the size of the divorce bill to the legal supervision of any transitional deal and the timing of trade talks.

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, and minister David Jones have held meetings with politicians from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia as part of a high-stakes charm offensive designed to find more sympathetic allies in the face of hardening opposition particularly among larger countries.

On Sunday, it was reported that Downing Street officials and senior cabinet ministers wanted to divert part of the annual aid budget to eastern European countries in the hope of winning their support for a good trade deal. And on Monday Davis is understood to be beginning a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to discuss Brexit plans and build ties with the Baltic states.

He maintains that his recent trip to Finland and Sweden was merely to “talk to our old allies” about the upcoming negotiations. “We have a lot in common with both these countries,” he said. “We had an extremely positive set of discussions … about the need for a positive approach.”

Meetings with MEPs in Strasbourg have been matched by visits from European leaders to London that are said to show their mutual interest in retaining constructive backchannels.

But Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP, the biggest group in the European parliament, told the Guardian that Britain’s strategy risked the opposite by fracturing any consensus on the EU side about a potential deal.

“They have a plan and that’s clear,” he said. “But there is a commission negotiator. There is not a negotiator from Germany. There is only the European commission negotiator, Michel Barnier, he will be sitting next to David Davis. If you split up Europe into different interests it will not be easy to get unanimity at the European council.”

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Other leaders of the three largest groups in the European parliament, which has to ratify an exit deal along with the House of Commons, agreed that the strategy could backfire.

“Any attempts by UK ministers to divide EU countries will only slow down and complicate negotiations,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group and the parliament’s Brexit point man. “The EU will negotiate as a united bloc.”

Gianni Pittella, leader of the socialist bloc in the parliament, said the UK’s apparent attempt to split Europe was “certainly not the best way to kick off very complicated negotiations. This inappropriate attitude could undermine the outcome.”

He also said recent threats that Britain could become a low-tax state if it did not achieve a good deal with the EU were a form of blackmail: “I was surprised because I don’t think it is in the interests of the UK to open this phase in an aggressive way. We reject this blackmail. It is not fair, it is not elegant, it is not useful.”

The scale of the challenge the UK faces in even arranging a transitional deal – to cushion the exit and allow space for a free trade deal to be struck – is illustrated in a report by the European parliament’s legal affairs committee.

A foreword to the report suggests it will be “difficult if not impossible” to get agreement among the EU27 and their national parliaments.

On the substance of a transitional deal, it adds that allowing the UK to continue in the single market without respecting the jurisdiction of the European court or permitting free movement would be like “allowing a national football association to decide it will set its own rules on the size of the ball, the number of players on the field and the width of the goal and do away with the referee, whilst purporting still to be able to take part in the European championship”.

Many in Brussels and other capitals feel the biggest threat to an orderly Brexit is domestic political pressure on May from leave hardliners within and outside the government, and from the pro-Brexit press, whose headlines calling the high court judges in the article 50 case “enemies of the people” were viewed on the continent with horror.

European leaders also feel the UK government’s perceived enthusiasm for Brexit masks a profound misapprehension about the real strength of its position in the upcoming exit talks. “They seem to seriously believe they can take without giving,” one London-based EU diplomat said.

While breezily dismissed by British ministers, including the foreign secretary, with suggestions that the value of prosecco, BMW and cheese exports will guarantee the UK a good deal, the EU27 have shown remarkable consistency on their Brexit red lines since the days after the UK referendum.

These have focused on issues such as no negotiations before notification, the indivisibility of the single market’s four freedoms, particularly free movement, and the impossibility of having your cake and eating it – or “cherry-picking”, as Merkel has repeatedly called it.

Nor is it just politicians showing unity. Continental businesspeople, including German car industry bosses, have repeatedly indicated they are willing to take a hit to their bottom lines from inferior trade terms with the UK if it means securing the integrity and continued stability of the single market.

“I don’t think the UK has fully understood that for the most part both politicians and businessmen in Europe still really value the EU and the single market and think it something that is worth fighting for,” one Brussels diplomat said. “Economic rationality will not be the deciding factor here.”

The EU27 are also well aware that once article 50 has been triggered, the clock starts ticking on a two-year negotiating period in which the pressure is plainly on the British. For the EU27, only one thing really matters in Brexit, as Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, among several others has repeatedly made plain.

“We want a fair deal for the UK,” Muscat said. “But that deal needs to be inferior to membership … Thinking it can be otherwise indicates a detachment from reality.”

Few on the continent seem convinced Britain has grasped this. “At the moment, it seems like Mrs May thinks of the EU as a restaurant where she can walk in order everything on the menu and then demand that the restaurant itself pays the bill,” the former Bulgarian prime minister Sergei Stanishev said last week.

“My view this is creating an illusion for domestic purposes, or it’s wishful thinking.”

O "desconforto" dos funcionários britânicos nas vésperas do "Brexit"
Assim que accionar o Artigo 50, o Reino Unido torna-se um “país-membro que está de saída”. A erosão da sua influência já se nota nas instituições. Há britânicos a pedirem a nacionalidade belga.

VASCO GANDRA em Bruxelas 20 de Fevereiro de 2017, 4:57

A cláusula de saída da União Europeia (UE) ainda não foi invocada pelo Governo britânico, mas em Bruxelas as instituições, os funcionários britânicos, as representações diplomáticas, as empresas e os lobbyistas já estão a interiorizar que o divórcio vai ser uma realidade. Preparam-se para as negociações e para o salto no desconhecido — num ambiente que fontes diplomáticas classificam de “desconforto e indefinição”, à espera que Londres notifique a intenção de se separar para o processo negocial poder finalmente começar.

Até sair do bloco comunitário, o Reino Unido é membro de pleno direito, mantém o seu comissário europeu e os eurodeputados britânicos desempenham plenamente o mandato. Mas, assim que accionar o Artigo 50 do Tratado de Roma, o Reino Unido vai deparar-se pouco a pouco com a condição de “país-membro que está de saída” — com as consequências que isso poderá acarretar em termos de perda de influência progressiva no seio da UE.

Nos últimos meses, à medida que a ideia da separação vem pouco a pouco a ganhar forma, sucedem-se os sinais de mal-estar, numa espécie de prenúncio de “fim de festa”.

Que se passa na Reper?
No dia 1 de Julho caberia ao Reino Unido assumir a presidência rotativa do conselho da UE. A presidência semestral permite a um país marcar a agenda política das diferentes formações do conselho. Mas na sequência do referendo que ditou o saída da UE, Londres abdicou de assumir esse cargo, cabendo agora a tarefa ao país que se segue na lista, a Estónia. Se o “sim” à UE tivesse vencido no referendo, a representação diplomática do Reino Unido junto da UE (Reper) estaria provavelmente a preparar a presidência semestral do conselho. Assim, está a braços com o “Brexit”.

No rescaldo do referendo, os sinais das dificuldades de Londres em lidar com a situação adensaram-se: começaram com a demissão do então primeiro-ministro, David Cameron, continuaram com as tensões nos principais partidos britânicos entre defensores de um corte radical com a UE (hard “Brexit”) e partidários de uma saída suave. O culminar das dificuldades ocorreu com a demissão do representante permanente do Reino Unido junto da União Europeia, Ivan Rogers, que saiu no início do ano com estrondo, obrigando Theresa May a encontrar um substituto para este lugar-chave na engrenagem institucional em Bruxelas, num momento crucial de preparação do divórcio.

No início do ano, o site Politico dava conta da decisão do Governo britânico de cancelar 24 postos relacionados com a UE, incluindo nove na Reper, em Bruxelas. Dizia ainda que os lugares disponíveis não eram preenchidos e que o moral estava em baixo. Fontes britânicas em Bruxelas confirmaram ao PÚBLICO que houve “mudanças estruturais” previstas com vista à presidência rotativa do conselho, entretanto desnecessárias, porque Londres já não vai assumir essa responsabilidade.

Cimeiras europeias a 27
Enquanto for membro da UE, o Reino Unido tem os mesmos direitos e deveres que os outros países. No Conselho Europeu, “os britânicos continuam a participar e a primeira-ministra contribui como os líderes dos outros Estados-membros”, garante uma fonte comunitária que acompanha as cimeiras europeias.

Mas se a 28 há uma aparência de normalidade, já as cimeiras informais a 27, sem Theresa May, estão a tornar-se um hábito. Os restantes líderes têm recorrido a estes encontros que decorrem geralmente a seguir aos conselhos europeus, após a saída da líder britânica, para acertar estratégias sobre o futuro da UE. Um modelo que tenderá a repetir-se com o “Brexit” à vista.

Ao mesmo tempo, a perspectiva de o Reino Unido abandonar o bloco comunitário está a levar “a movimentações políticas por parte dos outros Estados-membros, que procuraram ocupar o espaço que os britânicos vão deixar”, explica uma fonte diplomática em Bruxelas.

Um exemplo dessas “movimentações” é o frenesim em torno da Agência Europeia de Medicamentos, actualmente com sede em Londres. Com a saída do Reino Unido da UE, deverá abandonar a capital londrina. Lisboa, Dublin e outras cidades já estão na corrida para acolher a instituição responsável pela supervisão dos medicamentos.

Comissão Europeia
Quando se demitiu 48 horas após o referendo, o comissário britânico Jonathan Hill — favorável à permanência — ocupava em Bruxelas a pasta mais emblemática para o Reino Unido e importante para a City de Londres: os Serviços Financeiros e União dos Mercados de Capitais.

Na reacção à demissão de Hill, o presidente da Comissão lamentou e lembrou que no início do mandato considerou que o comissário do Reino Unido deveria ficar responsável pelos Serviços Financeiros, como testemunho da sua confiança na continuidade do país na UE.

Após a renúncia, o pelouro passou para o vice-presidente Valdis Dombrovskis. Hill foi substituído por Julian King, mas este assumiu a pasta da Segurança, em estreita cooperação com o comissário responsável pelos Assuntos Internos e Migração. O pelouro decisivo dos mercados financeiros fugia assim definitivamente ao Reino Unido, num dos primeiros sinais de que os tempos mudaram.

Parlamento Europeu
No Parlamento Europeu, em Estrasburgo, os efeitos do “Brexit” começaram horas após o anúncio dos resultados do referendo com o deputado conservador Ian Duncan a abandonar o cargo de relator para o sistema de comércio de emissões da Europa. Duncan acabaria por reconsiderar.

Mas no Parlamento Europeu alguns sentiram desconforto com o novo cenário e nos dias seguintes surgiu uma discussão polémica com vários parlamentares, sobretudo franceses, a porem em causa o estatuto dos deputados britânicos.

Mais recentemente, na tradicional rotação de cargos a meio do mandato, os eurodeputados britânicos conseguiram manter as presidências de três comissões parlamentares. Mas há sinais de que os podem estar a perder influência.

Dois membros do Partido Trabalhista deixaram de ocupar importantes posições de coordenação na bancada socialista na área das relações externas e do comércio internacional. O think tank VoteWatch, que monitoriza a actividade do PE, diz que se trata de um primeiro impacto do “Brexit”, já que a previsível saída dos deputados britânicos enfraquece a sua posição dentro dos respectivos grupos políticos europeus.

Há deputados que defendem que os britânicos não devem ser relatores parlamentares com influência na legislação da UE. “Os britânicos vão ser nossos concorrentes na cena internacional, por isso não devem ser responsáveis por legislação europeia em questões como o mercado interno, comércio ou indústria”, diz ao PÚBLICO o eurodeputado socialista belga Marc Tabarella.

Assim, a tendência nos grupos políticos poderá ser de atribuir cada vez menos responsabilidades legislativas aos eurodeputados do Reino Unido. O facto de no final de 2016 dois destacados parlamentares britânicos, o conservador Timothy Kirkhope e o trabalhista Richard Howitt, terem renunciado aos mandatos para exercerem outras actividades acentua a sensação de “virar de página”.

Outra dor de cabeça para Londres é a situação de incerteza dos funcionários britânicos que trabalham nas instituições. Só na Comissão Europeia há 1025. No Conselho são cerca de 75 e no Parlamento Europeu quase três centenas (sem incluir deputados nem assistentes). Apesar de alguns terem dupla nacionalidade, a maioria dos britânicos deverá preparar-se para a saída do seu país das instituições comunitárias. A situação em que se vão encontrar dentro de dois anos é uma enorme incógnita. Ficam alguns? Saem todos? Tudo vai depender das negociações entre Londres e os parceiros da UE, mas a preocupação é evidente.

Muitos britânicos — funcionários da UE mas não só — estão a pedir a nacionalidade belga para poderem manter o seu estatuto. Numa das comunas de Bruxelas — Ixelles, onde estão recenseados 1500 britânicos —, foram apresentados 300 pedidos de nacionalidade belga, dos quais 41 estão já garantidos.

Millions of expats caught in Brexit no man’s land
Negotiating a deal to secure citizen rights faces numerous obstacles

3 HOURS AGO by: Alex Barker in Brussels

When Greenland left the European Community in the 1980s, the legacy rights of expatriate citizens were guaranteed with a legal act of extraordinary simplicity: the operative article runs to just 85 words.

The fate of 4m EU and British expatriates looks far more uncertain and complex. One senior Brexit negotiator fears talks on citizen rights could sink into “a horrible legal morass”.

“It’s immense. Every time you think you’re across it, you turn another corner and find another mess,” said another senior EU diplomat.

Both London and the EU-27 agree on a broad goal: a reciprocal deal to guarantee the rights of 3m EU citizens in Britain, and some 1m British expats within the union. But within the detail of that superficial agreement lies an expat lifetime’s worth of politically-sensitive choices.

Wolfgang Münchau
EU expats deserve a sensible deal on UK residency rights
Post-Brexit discrimination is a greater fear than deportation for Europeans

Residence definitions, pension rights, unborn children, the ability to move, claim benefits, marry, divorce, even commit crime and avoid deportation — an entire cycle of modern life is potentially touched by the Brexit agreement.

“We can’t hide the fact that it is complex,” said Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator.

“But if we base ourselves on the principles of reciprocity and a uniform approach by the EU-27 then in my view there is no reason why we cannot find a lasting and equitable solution.”

Here the FT runs through seven obstacles to a deal.

Nothing can be taken for granted

There is no systematic register of when expats arrived in their current place of residence. Worse still, EU officials think it is not feasible to create a comprehensive one before the expected Brexit date in 2019. So even if some rights are guaranteed, citizens will need to prove eligibility. Britain’s 85-page residency form offers an insight on the bureaucracy ahead.

Not all expats are the same

No British politician has questioned the right to remain of legitimate EU migrants. But that is only one small sliver of EU citizen rights. At issue are work rights, welfare access, health provision, discounted student fees, even the ability to draw a UK state pension 50 years from now. And these rights depend on circumstances.

Under EU law, migrant workers have different rights to students, pensioners or jobseekers. Residing in a country for more than five years — and thereby gaining “permanent residence” — is an important threshold for gaining rights. But decisions will depend on proof.

Circumstances change

Managing change will be hard. If an expat marries, what rights would their partner enjoy, and would their nationality matter? Could they bring in-laws to the country? Similarly an expat’s legal status may evolve over time, should they lose their job or move country.

The law, too, will evolve. The EU may legislate to change rights post-Brexit. EU nationals may want to challenge Britain’s application of their rights. Would that be in British courts or European courts? And whose interpretation of EU law would prevail? A big role for European courts would cross a red line for London.

The two sides want to guarantee different rights

The EU-27 want to maintain full rights for EU expats but this could be tricky for Mrs May. If existing welfare rights remain intact, for instance, EU migrants could still claim UK child benefit for dependants in Paris or Warsaw — long a British tabloid bugbear. Full ​EU rights would also restrict Britain’s ability to deport an EU migrant who ​has ​committed crimes​ after Brexit.

A third example is pensions. Presently a Brit moving to Australia can draw their UK state pension, but it would be frozen, and not increased in line with inflation and earnings. A Slovak or German migrant worker who leaves Britain, by contrast, would enjoy better rights: their full UK pension drawn overseas and uprated every year.

There may need to be dozens of deals

Brexit poses two questions on citizen rights: the legacy rights of current expats, and what terms future expats may enjoy.

Britain may seek to tackle both in one deal — reciprocated by the EU. That would apply a single — probably less generous — regime of rights to all present and future EU migrants, covering health, benefits and citizenship.

Potential problems will arise from watering down EU rights. That is because the EU-27’s first and foremost concern is preserving full rights for the existing 3m migrants, rather than future flows.

Depart too much from the EU’s legal baseline and EU negotiators warn a citizen rights deal may not be possible under the Article 50 exit clause. Instead country-by-country bilateral deals may be necessary with each of the 27 members. That is hard to negotiate and ratify, and even harder for expats to understand and apply.

Beware the cut off point

No Brexit deal on rights can be open-ended. Negotiators are looking at various cut-off points: the lifetime of the eligible expats; a period of time, say 5 or 10 years; or until the point at which the expat gives up their enhanced rights by moving country. All three options have political and technical upsides and downsides.

One complication is that some rights — such as pensions — will be for life and even cover former expats. Then there is the eligibility date. British ministers want to draw a line on EU free movement rights and are looking at three options: the point of the Brexit referendum, the Article 50 notification, or Britain’s exit. EU-27 negotiators see nothing to discuss: EU rights and obligations continue until the point Britain leaves.

Early, late or hard?

Expat rights will be one of the first topics to be discussed in Brexit talks. Both sides want a quick deal but that may be impossible. Diplomats are scrambling to work out what would happen in the event of no deal. Expats would basically be at the mercy of national governments.

But there are some protections. EU law does cover safeguard rights for some third-country nationals. And a raft of dormant UK bilateral agreements with European countries on welfare — superseded by EU membership — may be revived. One such agreement dug up: a 1923 Anglo-Finnish treaty on “the disposal of the estates of deceased seamen”.

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