Brexit Bulletin: Seven-Day Dash
(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: The prime minister’s crucial conference speech will only fire the starting gun for another week of frantic Brexit talks.
Theresa May’s speech today may be the big finale of the Conservative Party conference, but for Brexit negotiators it’s just the beginning of a crucial round of talks.
Britain and the European Union are set to kick off a week of negotiations on Wednesday aimed at thrashing out the final shape of the Brexit deal ahead of an October summit of EU leaders, Bloomberg’s Ian Wishart and Tim Ross report. Talks have effectively been on hold as May has navigated the political perils of conference. It wraps up today and both sides want to get back to work with the goal of signing the deal in mid-November.
The prime minister will tell the conference that the U.K.’s “best days lie ahead’’ and also attack Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to a text released by her office. Still, the note of optimism can’t mask the fact that time is running out to seal a deal. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will visit Brussels next week and he’s expecting progress on the thorny issue of the Irish border, according to a senior official.
Both side expect more details to emerge within days. The EU will finalize its positions on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the two sides’ post-Brexit economic and trading relationship, while the U.K. is also expected to propose fresh concessions, European diplomats said. Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries expect to be able to make concrete plans for the Oct. 18-19 EU summit when they meet in Brussels at 4 p.m. a week from today.
As part of the seven-day choreography, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will consult with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Thursday. On Tuesday Barnier meets Arlene Foster, the combative leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party, before holding talks with the leaders of other Northern Irish parties on Friday. Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. and shares a border – currently unpoliced – with EU member Republic of Ireland.
With little agreement over the exact nature of future ties, the final version of a declaration on the future relationship could be as short as three pages, one diplomat said. Much of the detail would only be negotiated once the U.K. has left the bloc, in the British view. The U.K. expects a much fuller document. Barnier is already drafting the declaration, which isn’t legally binding, and will present it to European commissioners shortly before the meeting of leaders.
Boris Backs Away
At the Tory Party conference yesterday, May’s would-be successor Boris Johnson stole the headlines with his usual flamboyance, but stopped short of calling for the prime minister to step down.
While the former foreign secretary’s fringe speech pulled focus from the main conference agenda and laid into May’s strategy to extricate the U.K. from the EU, his failure to move in for the kill reflected the knowledge among Brexit hardliners that they don’t have the numbers to topple her, according to Bloomberg’s Robert Hutton and Kitty Donaldson.
Johnson’s 40-minute speech delighted the crowd with jokes, calls for lower taxes and higher spending, as well as jabs at Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. Johnson won cheers as he called May’s Brexit plan “a cheat.” Still, he didn’t demand she receive her marching orders – something many in the 1,500-strong audience were anticipating. Instead, he urged May to return to the Brexit vision she originally articulated in 2017 and advocate leaving the EU’s single market and customs union without any ambiguity.
Even so, there’s a chance that May’s respite will be temporary. The Telegraph reports that she is under pressure from her cabinet to set out a timetable for her departure.
- One name keeps coming up at the Tory Party conference, and it’s not Theresa May or even Boris Johnson. Instead, as Bloomberg’s Thomas Penny and Charlotte Ryan report, the most talked-about politician is Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, the old-school socialist who is winning the support of younger voters the Tories will need as their traditional voter base gets older and dies off.
- Japan is waving goodbye to the U.K. as a post-Brexit gateway to Europe, Bloomberg’s Suzi Ring, Lisa Du and Alex Morales report. As the risk of a no-deal divorce looms larger and nearer, Japanese companies aren’t waiting around to find out whether May can deliver. Some are already shifting operations out of Britain.
- Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stepped up his attack on the EU over Brexit, saying the U.K. is “very angry” with the bloc’s attitude to the negotiations. In an interview on Tuesday with Bloomberg Television, Hunt said the latest EU dismissal of May’s plan isn’t good enough, escalating the British government’s pushback against the bloc’s hardline stance.
Brexit in Brief
Motoring Off | Carmakers at the Paris Motor Show continued to rev up the pressure on the U.K. government, with BMW threatening to shift production to the Netherlands if the U.K. leaves without a deal, and Toyota and PSA also discussing plant closures.
Risks for Business | The costs of Brexit are running to billions of pounds before the U.K. has even left the EU, according to the Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry. Meanwhile, Adam Marshall, her counterpart at the British Chambers of Commerce, says the whole process could suck the energy of government away from big domestic priorities such as infrastructure, digital connectivity and training.
DUP Deadlock | Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has vowed to fight any concessions on the Irish border question, with DUP leader Arlene Foster using a Bloomberg TV interview to brand any sort of extra checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. as unacceptable. Foster, whose party effectively props up May’s premiership, later repeated the same sentiment in a tweet following a meeting with the prime minister.
Negotiated Settlement | The U.K. public wants a negotiated Brexit settlement, Nicky Morgan, the Conservative chair of the U.K. Treasury Committee, told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.
Fighting Finn | Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has entered the contest to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, seeking to steer the bloc after Brexit and become the first Nordic native in the post.
On the Markets | A no-deal Brexit is now just one of the many unknowns pound traders need to contend with, as concerns grow over the risk of a second referendum or even another U.K. election, Bloomberg’s Charlotte Ryan reports. Meanwhile, here’s a look at how the endless Brexit drama is hurting U.K. stocks.
Coming Up | Theresa May’s big speech is the highlight of proceedings at the Tory Party conference, while IHS Markit is due to release its latest report on the U.K.’s dominant services industry at 9:30 a.m.
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