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5 nuggets of Brexit wisdom this week

by Charlie Mitchell | 23.09.2016

Not surprisingly, the repercussions of June’s EU vote dominated the annual conferences of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats, a warm-up for the next episode of Labour’s civil war in Liverpool and the Conservatives’ conference in Birmingham. Away from the party political spotlight, Britain’s higher education and financial institutions are still struggling to deal with the uncertainty caused by Brexit. They are not alone.

Here are five things that grabbed our attention this week.

1. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron argued that the party should demand a new vote on the terms of Brexit, once Theresa May has negotiated them. The party has made Brexit a central issue as it stakes a claim for the centre ground in British politics. Former leader Nick Clegg, now the Lib Dems’ EU spokesman, berated “swivel-eyed” Tory backbenchers as he pushed for a soft Brexit and single market access.

2. In the run-up to Labour’s conference in Liverpool this Sunday, a Fabian Society paper, with contributions from nine MPs, said that ending free movement should become a key Labour demand before formal exit negotiations begin with the EU. In what many consider a substantial retreat, remain MP Chuka Umunna argued that if Britain was forced to retain unfettered free movement of people, it couldn’t remain in the single market.

3. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, 5,476 financial companies hold at least one EU trading passport, allowing them to provide their services freely across the continent. German central bank chief Jens Weidmann warned that Britain will lose that passporting privilege if it pushes for a hard Brexit. Lloyd’s of London became the latest financial institution to disclose plans to move some of its operations to the EU.

4. In a week that saw Oxford ranked as the world’s top university, over 80% of university vice-chancellors expressed fear that Brexit will harm the UK’s reputation for higher education. Free movement of people, most agreed, is vital to research and collaboration. To get around this, some universities are considering opening campuses within the EU, the Guardian reported.

5. Angela Merkel’s party, the CDU, suffered a heavy defeat in Berlin state elections. The far-right anti-immigration party, Alternative for Germany, won seats in the state parliament for the first time, following a similar result in Western Pomerania earlier this month. How the political shift in Europe’s most influential country feeds into the UK’s divorce talks can only compound post-Brexit uncertainty.

Edited by Alan Wheatley