WTO chief vows to make Brexit transition ‘fast and smooth’

The head of the World Trade Organisation Roberto Azevedo has pledged to prevent Britain suffering “disruption” after it leaves the EU. He said, “The UK is a member of the WTO today, it will continue to be a member tomorrow. There will be no discontinuity in membership [as it leaves the EU],” and promised that he would work to make the transition “fast and smooth.” Azevedo told Sky News: “The less turbulence the better. The global economy today is not in the best shape for us to be introducing turbulence. Trade will not stop. It will continue and members negotiate the legal basis under which that trade is going to happen.”

Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said at a conference in Bucharest yesterday, “We must tell Britain that they must choose, if they want to be a part of the [EU single] market then they must accept all the rules of the…market. If they do not want to accept them, then they cannot be members of the…market, I don’t think we need to show too much flexibility.” He added, “We wish to minimise the damage for both the European Union and the United Kingdom. We must show cohesion in Europe and that the rules apply to everyone

However, Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, told the European Scrutiny Committee yesterday, “It is to the advantage of European citizens to have greater trade liberalisation… Those who want to see greater trade liberalisation may be asking whether the current [agreement] process is too lengthy and whether there are too many possible impediments… Those who put politics ahead of prosperity might want to think twice.”

Nicola Sturgeon proposes an ‘all-Scotland coalition’ for EU single market membership

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, said at the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh yesterday, “Regardless of the positions people take on the constitutional future of Scotland, on this central issue of [EU] single market membership there is widespread agreement…So today let’s resolve to present to the UK Government a unified Scottish position: an all-Scotland coalition of support for the single market. An all-Scotland coalition – of politicians, business, universities and others – to resist a hard Brexit.”

Source: City AM BBC News

Trade Minister suggests UK will look to replace EU financial services passport with “new model”

In a phone interview with Bloomberg, UK Trade Minister Mark Garnier suggested that the UK was likely to lose the so-called passporting rights – the ability of UK-headquartered financial firms to provide services across the EU – after Brexit, but added, “If we can create a special hybrid version of that, with a better version of [regulatory] equivalence or a different version of passporting, then that’s what we will try to achieve. What we are not trying to do is fit into an existing box. We are trying to create a new model.”

Source: Open Europe Intelligence Bloomberg

Wallonia impasse forces EU-Canada summit to be cancelled

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, has cancelled his trip to Brussels, as originally planned, for the signing of the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) today, due to the region of Wallonia in Belgium refusing to give the agreement the green light. Alex Lawrence, press secretary for Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, said, “The Canadian delegation will not be travelling to Europe,” adding “Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement when Europe is ready.” Speaking to French daily Libération Minister President of Wallonia Paul Magnette said “What is at stake is how we will shape globalization over the next twenty or thirty years.”

Source: ITV News Reuters Libération

Theresa May: No reason to believe Brexit will undermine peace in Northern Ireland

Speaking to Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May said, “I don’t believe there’s any reason to believe that the outcome of the referendum will do anything to undermine the absolute rock-solid commitment of this government and the people of Northern Ireland to the settlement that was set out in the Belfast Agreement.” She added, “There is, and remains, a strong support for the entirely peaceful future for Northern Ireland that has been determined by democracy and consent…We remain committed to that.”

Source: Reuters

Tim Farron: Richmond Park by-election can change Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ strategy

Speaking to the Press Association, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said, “The ability for people of Richmond Park to really change the way our country heads is over Brexit – are we going to leave the EU or are we going to leave the single market, risking jobs and livelihoods in this part of London?” He added, “If you want to stop Theresa May taking us down this extreme path that no-one voted for, then a vote for the Liberal Democrats will send a powerful message and could literally change the direction of our country.”

Source: Press Association

Michael Gove to sit on Brexit committee

Michael Gove, former lead Brexit campaigner for the Conservatives, will sit on the Exiting the EU Commons Select Committee, it was announced yesterday. He will be joined by other former prominent Leave campaigners, John Wittingdale and and Dominic Raab. However, the Independent reports that there will be a narrow majority of former Remain campaigners on the committee, led by chairman Hilary Benn.

Source: Independent

Renzi threatens EU budget veto over lack of solidarity in migrant crisis

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told state broadcaster RAI that he is “absolutely” prepared to use his veto on the EU budget due to the lack of solidarity from Central and Eastern member states in the on-going migrant crisis. He argued, “If Hungary, the Czech Republic or Slovakia lecture us on migrants and then don’t help us and want our money, in 2017 Italy as a whole must side with the government to let them know it’s over. We put the money if, at the same time, others do their bit too. Money doesn’t go through walls. If you build a wall, you can forget about Italians’ money.” Asked about the European Commission’s reservations over Italy’s draft budget for 2017, Renzi said, “If we are sent a letter [for breaching EU fiscal rules], those who do not take in migrants should be sent a book.”

Source: Corriere della Sera La Repubblica

UK to send planes and troops to Eastern Europe as NATO steps up response to Russia

The Times reports that Britain will send warplanes, tanks and troops to Romania and Estonia as part of the biggest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the Cold War. For the first time, RAF Typhoon fighters will be stationed at a Romanian airbase near the Black Sea next year. Challenger 2 tanks, drones and 800 troops will also be deployed to Estonia from May, contributing to a 4,000-strong Nato force that will straddle the Baltic states and Poland along the alliance’s border with Russia.

Source: The Times

Merkel’s party on two-month high

A new Forsa poll for Stern/RTL sees German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU party on a two-month high with 35% (+1), while its coalition partner, the SPD, remains on 22%. The right-wing populist AfD party stays on 12%, the Greens on 11%, the Left party on 9%, and the FDP on 6%.

Source: Die Welt

Santander: no material impact from Brexit vote so far, but challenges lie ahead

Nathan Bostock, Santander UK chief executive, said yesterday, “Although we have not seen a material impact on our business in the short period since the EU referendum, we do expect a more challenging macroeconomic environment ahead.” A bank spokesperson added, “The UK’s decision to leave the EU has led to economic uncertainty and financial market volatility which we expect to continue… In the near-term, we expect this to result in lower consumer confidence and, over time, lower economic growth. In addition, the lower value of sterling, when combined with an ongoing increase in oil prices, is likely to lead to higher inflation.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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