Photo Illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg
Brexit Bulletin: Hoping for ProgressBy
May survives plot to oust her and fights back with threat of reshuffle
First splits in EU27 could emerge if trade talks delayed, diplomats say
Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping to make some progress on Brexit this week even as the political plotting at home makes it increasingly unlikely that she’ll survive long enough to ink the final deal. But there’s a glimmer of hope for the U.K. as its negotiating team heads back to Brussels: the tight unity of the EU27 could be about to show some cracks, Bloomberg’s Ian Wishart reports.
The European side has all but ruled out moving on to trade talks at the leaders’ summit next week, and diplomats say some governments are blocking proposals to allow discussion of the transition deal that U.K. businesses urgently need. While the 27 governments have been united so far, that consensus may not hold if trade talks are postponed beyond December, according to the diplomats. Countries including the Netherlands and Denmark are keen to open trade talks as soon as possible.
“In any political negotiations, there is not enough time, not enough money, not enough this, not enough that,” Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen told the Guardian. “This is part of the game. In my view it is rather important we get into a more close and more speedy process on concluding some of the issues.”
Back in London, May appeared to have survived the concerted attempt to oust her last week, at least for now, and fought back on Sunday with a veiled threat to demote her rebellious foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
Speculation also gathered momentum about the future of Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, as veteran Tory lawmaker Bernard Jenkin slammed the Treasury for its Brexit stance and Nadine Dorries said Hammond should be fired for trying to “stall” divorce talks. The Times reports that Hammond is seen as an electoral liability, but he’s also considered a rare ally of business in the government. Any doubt about his future would unnerve investors, who are already selling the pound because of political uncertainty.
May has a chance to show how much fight she has left in her when she addresses Parliament on Monday afternoon. She’ll update lawmakers on the speech last month in Florence, where she made a series of concessions to the European side.
“The ball is in their court,” she will say. “So while of course progress will not always be smooth, by approaching these negotiations in a constructive way—in a spirit of friendship and co-operation and with our sights firmly set on the future—I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong.”
Read more: With May’s Leadership in Doubt, Four Scenarios for Brexit
Jobs Warning | Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc Chairman Howard Davies said details of a post-Brexit transition deal need to be outlined in the next five months to stop more financial-services jobs from leaving London.
Gloomy Consumers | Consumer spending resumed its decline last month after a brief respite, signaling that a key part of the economy is continuing to weaken. Spending on recreation and culture dropped the most since July 2013.
Who Will Harvest | Christmas shopping may get more hectic and crops might go unharvested unless the government ensures access to unskilled migrant labor after Brexit, the British Retail Consortium warned.
Battling Themselves | The Brexit department and May’s office are fighting each other for staff, the Financial Times reported. Olly Robbins, who left DexEU for No. 10 last month, is trying to lure former colleagues, the paper said.
More Losses | Europe’s top drug regulator could suffer a “major” budget deficit after Brexit because of staff losses stemming from its planned relocation from London, the agency said.
Sturgeon’s Sense | Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appealed across the political divide to help keep Britain in the single market after Brexit. Leaving the single market would inflict “monumental damage” on all parts of the U.K., she said, urging Parliament to keep pushing for “common sense.”
Talks Timetable | Brexit Secretary David Davis won’t be going to Brussels today for the usual handshake and opening remarks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. The teams will talk about issues including the financial settlement on Monday and Tuesday, before taking a break on Wednesday and coming back for a final session and closing press conference with Davis and Barnier on Thursday.
On the Markets | The pound fell almost 3 percent last week as investors worried that the campaign to oust May would succeed, ushering in months of uncertainty and the possibility of another general election, which the opposition Labour Party could win. No respite is predicted this week, Bloomberg’s Charlotte Ryan writes.
Who said Brexit was hurting consumer spending? A Bank of England note with a face value of £10 ($13) has sold for £7,200 at auction, Bloomberg’s Lucy Meakin reports. The tenner has the serial number AA01 000010 and sold for more than double the top estimate of auctioneers Spink. At the same sale, a complete uncut sheet of 54 £10 notes went for £13,500.