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1) Oh Look, The Most Obvious Thing In The World Has Happened
The EU talked about €100bn, UK brexiteers didn’t want to pay anything, and well knock me down with a feather if they haven’t met halfway.
It was reported this week that a figure of €50billion has been agreed between Brussels and Britain as the amount which needs to be handed over after Brexit.
While no one has officially confirmed the deal, there are enough nods, winks and background briefings from various Brussels correspondents to suggest this is the real deal.
Crucially, it won’t be a lump sum payment handed over by the UK upon exit day. It seems the British government will honour commitments as and when they emerge – for example during the 2019/20 spending round which falls during the two year transition period.
The Financial Times has crunched the numbers pretty well, and argues the deal works for both sides as it allows the EU to claim the UK is paying more in gross terms than it will in net terms.
The majority of Tory Brexiteers seem to be relaxed about the size of the Bill. One prominent Leaver told me this week the amount is a “pinprick” compared to what the UK has paid in membership fees over the years, and would continue to pay if it remained a member. They predicted the real fight would be over the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition period.
As for the Remainers, they have been hard at work on Twitter pointing out that Vote Leave’s bus omitted to mention the UK would pay €50billion to EU, and that Brexit would actually see us getting money back.
That might be true, but seeing as anti-Brexiteers would be happy for the UK to keep sending almost £9billion a year (net) to Brussels, it seems a strange fight to pick.
2) The Irish Border Issue Has Suddenly Become Easier To Solve Now The Money Is Sorted.
At the beginning of the week, all the talk was about the Irish border.
Comments from Ireland’s EU Commissioner that the UK staying in the Single Market or customs union would be the best outcome were seized upon by the Observer on Sunday, but it seemed a confected row to me. It definitely fell into the ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ category of interviews.
Likewise, Liam Fox’s comment on Paterson on Sunday that the “final answer” to the Irish border issue wouldn’t be known until the “end state” of the trade deal was agreed.
Again, this seems to make perfect sense – and is something the EU clearly recognise as well. After all, there only needed to be ‘sufficient progress’ on the border issue before trade talks could begin, not a final solution.
And as if by magic – or because the money has been sorted out – it seems Brussels now believes there has been enough movement on the border issue to allow talks to turn to trade.
The UK has apparently given assurances there will be no “hard border” after Brexit.
This is true. The UK set out that exact position in its Northern Ireland and Ireland position paper published in August. The EU must have only just got round to reading it.
One concrete development seems to be devolving more powers to Northern Ireland to operate a separate customs structure with Ireland on areas such as energy and agriculture.
The UK Government will have to work hard to convince the DUP this will not mean a separate customs border in mainland Britain.
The divorce bill and Irish border will no doubt come up in conversation between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker when they meet for lunch on Monday.
We’ll know for sure because all the details get briefed to the German press afterwards.
3) That’ll Teach David Davis To Show Off About All The Work He’s Done
It took almost a month, but the Government finally handed to MPs its internal impact assessments of Brexit on 58 sectors of the UK economy.
Well, some of them.
And they’re not impact assessments.
And not even Brexit Ministers such as Steve Baker has read them all.
And Labour isn’t happy.
And neither is Jacob Rees-Mogg.
These Schrodinger Assessments, which exist or not depending on how much of a boasting mood David Davis is in, have fascinated MPs ever since they were mentioned by the Brexit Secretary in December 2016.
After agreeing on November 1 to hand over the documents to the Brexit Committee, around 850 pages were given to MPs this week. There was just one hard copy presented to the committee, meaning clerks had to spend much of Tuesday morning chained to the photocopier.
The main frustration has arisen from Davis deciding to hold back any information he believes will damage the negotiations or are commercially sensitive.
Labour – and Tories such a Rees-Mogg who are sticklers for parliamentary process – believes this is not in keeping with the motion passed on November 1.
Davis is due to appear before the Select Committee next week to explain himself.
Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…
At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
Dr Alan Greene on why it should never have been a surprise that the Irish border is a “thorn in the side of Brexit”
Frances O’Grady on the six questions workers need answering about their rights after Brexit
Tom Brake with eight reasons the Government should publish the Brexit impact assessments in full