Brexit Bulletin: It’s Complicated

  • Negotiators return for day two of second round of negotiations
  • May aims to silence Cabinet feuds overshadowing talks

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It’s complicated. That’s the assessment the British made after the first day of rebooted Brexit talks.

Brexit Secretary David Davis headed back to London after just three hours following a photo opportunity that prompted Twitter mockery over the size (or otherwise) of his stack of papers. Davis’ clear desk was compared unfavorably with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s sizable file.

Ashley Cowburn/Twitter

The team of 98 British officials will be back to technical talks today, covering issues such as citizens’ rights, financial obligations, nuclear energy cooperation and what to do about U.K. and EU goods placed on the market before Brexit day, Ian Wishart reports.

“We recognize that this will be a complicated and technical process and we look forward to coming back tomorrow to make progress on the work we have begun today,” a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said at the end of Monday’s talks.

The EU has made much of the early running by forging common positions on the issues up for debate, as well as forcing the U.K.to discuss divorce matters before moving on to a future trade arrangement. Davis, who tacitly acknowledged that the first round of talks last month had achieved little, is also now echoing Barnier’s line that the time left to get a deal is slipping away and common ground must be found swiftly.

Davis will be back on Thursday, when the second round of talks concludes, and we may get a sense of how much common ground was found.

David Davis and Michel Barnier during a news conference in Brussels on July 17, 2017.
Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Back in London, businesses and lawmakers are also drawing attention to just how complicated the process will be. KPMG said any transitional deal needs to last at least three years, and said if there’s no clarity by the end of this year businesses will start putting their departure plans into action.

Meanwhile a panel of lawmakers suggested the government hasn’t done its homework on data-protection, which risks cutting British police off from vital information links with European counterparts. The government needs to reach an “adequacy decision” as part of the Brexit deal, which would mean the EU agreeing that British data-protection rules meet its standards.

“The committee was concerned by the lack of detail on how the government plans to maintain unhindered data flows post-Brexit,” said Michael Jay, chairman of the House of Lords Home Affairs EU Subcommittee.

Leaky Ministers

The talks in Brussels were overshadowed by intrigue and feuding between U.K. ministers, and Prime Minister Theresa May, her authority weakened since the near-defeat of June’s general election, will try to gag ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Much of the leaking has been damaging to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, whose position on Brexit is more conciliatory than that of some colleagues. 

“Cabinet must be able to hold discussions on government policy in private, and the prime minister will be reminding her colleagues of that at the cabinet meeting tomorrow,” said May’s spokesman, James Slack. “She’ll be reminding them of their responsibilities and making the point that ministers across government need to be focused on getting on with delivering for the British public."

Brexit in Brief

  • Majority of Labour Party members want to remain in single market, Guardian reports 
  • U.K. housing market will cool this year as Brexit hits the economy, PricewaterhouseCoopers says
  • Citigroup settles on Frankfurt as new European trading hub
  • Sweden’s Handelsbanken has added 4 percent to its U.K. staff
  • Hammond faces questions in House of Commons at 11:30 a.m. in London
  • Lord Kerr, who drafted Article 50, says in letter to Financial Times that Brexit must be stopped. The letter is signed by professors, journalists and think tank chiefs
  • As the reality of Brexit becomes clear, the slim pro-Brexit majority could fall apart, argues the FT’s Gideon Rachman
  • EU and U.K. to present joint proposal for rewriting WTO membership terms in September or October, Reuters reports.

And Finally...

As the back-stabbing among Tories gets nastier, the language gets more colorful. Dominic Cummings, former head of the Leave campaign, described Davis as “thick as mince” and “vain as Narcissus.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, talks in an interview with Former Chancellor George Osborne’s Evening Standard about strapping former cabinet colleagues together on a raft and sending them down a dangerous river.

Simon Kennedy is away

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