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Brexit Bulletin: Divide and Wait

  • Fishermen unhappy with delay in taking back control of waters
  • May suggests designing new customs regime to be time-consuming

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The fishermen can’t wait, the public don’t want to wait, but Prime Minister Theresa May says she might need more time.

Just like Brexit itself, the question of how long the U.K. should spend getting ready before finally leaving the European Union’s political and legal structures is dividing the country. First there was the argument about the transition period, which was agreed to last week. Brexit-backing fishermen aren’t happy that the U.K. won’t “take back control” of its waters – escaping the quotas of the Common Fisheries Policy – until Jan. 1, 2021. Yet it could have been worse for them, as May was exploring a longer transitional phase.

Brexit-backing fishermen aren’t happy that the U.K. won’t “take back control” of its waters sooner.
Photographer: Annie Sakkab/Bloomberg

Now the question is what kind of future customs arrangements will apply to trade between the U.K. and the EU (and how will this help avoid a hard border with Ireland). May suggested on Tuesday that designing a new customs regime and getting everything ready was turning out to be quite a time-consuming task.

“What’s become clear is that sometimes the timetables that have originally been set are not the timetables that are necessary when you actually start to look at the detail and when you delve into what it really is that you want to be able to achieve,” May said.

The prime minister’s candid comment to Tory MP Nicky Morgan, in evidence to the Commons Liaison Committee, might be seen as a hint that she’s planning something. Will the U.K. ultimately want a longer period of implementation once a new customs plan has been drawn up? Some Brexit watchers are already saying so, and May did little to suggest she’s in a hurry to switch to a new regime.

For 52-year-old Angela Dunstan, a store manager in Lancaster, Brexit “seems like it’s taking a long time” already. She’s one of more than 130 people in nine locations across the country whom Bloomberg reporters interviewed for a state-of-the-nation portrait of Britain with one year left until exit day. If you need something to fill the time while you wait, it’s well worth a read.

Brexit Latest

Brexit Vote ‘Cheated’ | Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie told a parliamentary committee in London that the 2016 referendum could have gone the other way if rules hadn’t been broken during the campaign. “I think it is completely reasonable to say that there could’ve been a different outcome in the referendum if there hadn’t been, in my view, cheating,” said Wylie, a former contractor at Cambridge Analytica who is now at the heart of a scandal over alleged misuse of Facebook data. Brexit campaigners have denied wrongdoing.

Vow of Silence | The Conservatives’ chief Brexit champion outside the government, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said past examples of prime ministers relying on the votes of opposition lawmakers did not end happily. It was seen as a veiled warning to Theresa May not to use Labour to push through some kind of soft Brexit. Rees-Mogg also revealed that if the referendum result had been different, he might have become a Trappist monk, Alex Morales reports.

Irish Breakthrough | The Times reports that a new proposal from the U.K. government for the Irish border question is expected to be announced “imminently.”

Terror Threat | Prime Minister May warns in a report on Wednesday that the threat to the U.K. from terrorism will stay at its current level of “severe” for at least another two years. She wants a close security partnership with the EU after Brexit.

Bus Timetable | Boris Johnson’s NHS bus pledge might finally arrive. The foreign secretary has been pushing for May to give the health service a huge boost in funding, after painting a pledge to spend £350 million on the NHS instead of sending it to the EU on the side of a big red bus during the referendum campaign two years ago. It looks like she’s on board.

Migration Nation | U.K. businesses have become reliant on European Union workers and are concerned about restrictions after Britain leaves the bloc next year, according to a government-commissioned study published on Tuesday. “Employers were fearful about what the future migration system might be,” the Migration Advisory Committee said in an interim report.

Papering Over Cracks | The European Commission is considering diverting profits made by the European Central Bank from printing bank notes to plug a hole in the EU’s long-term budget once U.K. leaves in 2019, the Financial Times reports.

And Finally...

It’s been nearly a year since Theresa May took the fateful walking holiday with her husband in Wales during which she decided to call a snap general election. A lost majority later, she told MPs that despite the picturesque scenery, a follow-up visit might be difficult.

“I do see the value of Welsh agriculture to the Welsh landscape quite often when I go walking in Wales,” she said. “Although, given the decision I took last year when I did that, I’m not sure many would welcome my reference to walk in Wales again.”

May announces a general election in April 2017, after her walk in Wales.
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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