Weekly round-up: Scotland, trade deficits, £36bn divorce

by Luke Lythgoe | 11.08.2017

The holiday season got a little easier for tourists as huge queues at EU airports vanished and passengers were waved through security. British holidaymakers shouldn’t relax too much though, as new EU travel rules could see an extra layer of red tape added to continental trips after Brexit. It’s also possible they’ll have to share economy class with Jean-Claude Juncker, after an expenses scandal broke over the European Commission’s use of private jets.

Negotiating away

The British negotiating effort came under fire from Simon Fraser, top civil servant at the foreign office until 2015, who said the Brexit talks hadn’t begun “particularly promisingly” and that the British side had been “a bit absent”, something he blamed on divisions within the Cabinet.

Theresa May intends to deploy a network of ambassadors to let other EU members know what Britain wants. It’s been dubbed an “engagement unit”, although one might assume this is what ambassadors do anyway.

There has also been a letter from David Davis to the Lords’ EU committee outlining his progress in Brussels and defending the gender balance on his negotiating team (see header image). The Brexit secretary complains the EU is not matching the UK on the rights of citizens after Brexit, with British expats not having the right to vote in EU elections or live and work in countries other than the one they’re living in at the time of Brexit.

Disunited government, disunited kingdom

Will the Brexit ‘divorce’ bill ever be settled? Over the weekend, newspapers reported a proposal by senior civil servants in which the UK was said to be willing to pay up to £36 billion in order to kickstart talks on trade and the future UK-EU relationship. By Monday this had been denounced by Brexiter backbenchers and abandoned by Downing Street.

Meanwhile the battle over devolving EU powers to Scotland after Brexit continued. The SNP, who fear a policy “power grab” by Westminster, are still refusing to support the so-called Repeal Bill despite “useful” and “civilised” talks with Damian Green.

The economy

First the good news: British manufacturers’ exports rose in June and July thanks to the weakness of the pound.

And the bad? The UK’s trade deficit swelled by £2 billion between May and June, dashing hopes of a speedy rebalancing of the British economy.

Rising food costs are driving up retail sales, suggesting households are increasingly reluctant to buy non-food items.

In the jobs market, recruiters are facing staffing shortages as vacancies rise and candidate availability shrinks, with sectors reliant on European workers being hit particularly hard.

Brexit fears are also leading to a rise in foreign-currency accounts in the UK.

Over in the City, London’s euro-clearing trade is looking more vulnerable as the European Parliament pushes for tougher regulation.

But things could get worse still if a transitional deal isn’t agreed before Brexit talks end. The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority has laid out in stark terms how catastrophic a regulatory cliff-edge would be for the financial sector.

What everyone else is saying

Spain has promised not to scupper Brexit talks over a bid for Gibraltar, resulting in a triumphal frontpage from The Sun.

Vince Cable, in the Mail on Sunday, wrote that the “old have comprehensively shafted the young” over Brexit. The Telegraph’s editorial strongly disagreed.

Some are beginning to publicly break ranks with May’s government, such as Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson urging the end of the “tens of thousands” migration target and removing students from the data. Former David Davis aide James Chapman has called Brexit catastrophic, and says a new party is needed to prevent it.

Britain’s outgoing top judge, David Neuberger, urged the government to be “very clear” on how judges should approach European Court of Justice decisions after Brexit – otherwise “judges will simply have to do their best”. The UK’s information commissioner also had a warning for the government, that they must stick with EU data protection laws if UK companies want to operate in Europe after Brexit.

But perhaps we should all be listening to Australia’s high commissioner, Alexander Downer, who told Radio 4 that the British were just being “a bit gloomy” over Brexit.

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    Edited by Bill Emmott

    2 Responses to “Weekly round-up: Scotland, trade deficits, £36bn divorce”

    • Every major decision has pros and cons but the Brexiters rubbished the warnings against voting to leave the EU.
      Those warnings are daily becoming more apparent.
      I advocated judicial review of the conduct of the referendum. Shop keepers have to carefully describe goods or services on offer or are fined. Are politicians exempt from punishment when they lie and cheat.
      Democracy has no meaning if the politicians are permitted to blatantly lie with no fear of punishment.

    • A new impossible situation comes up every week. The latest is the Irish border issue and the proposed solution being ‘spot checks’ of some sort. Ha Ha Ha.

      May is trying to shoehorn the country into new regulations and it is clearly not working.

      It is becoming increasingly apparent that the elite want to reclaim the UK for themselves, not the public at large. They need to be identified and stopped.