Negotiations on Britain’s future trade agreement will continue only if last week’s withdrawal deal is quickly turned into a legally binding treaty, European Union leaders will state. A text to be agreed by them this week calls on Theresa May to “start drafting the relevant parts of the withdrawal agreement” into law. In language aimed at David Davis, the Brexit secretary, they will warn that any attempt to backtrack on last Friday’s agreement would result in the EU halting trade talks. EU officials and diplomats were irritated by Mr Davis’s remark at the weekend that the withdrawal agreement was just a “statement of intent”. “It’s not helpful if people cast everything into doubt 24 hours later,” one source said.
The European Parliament will on Wednesday demand Britain promises to stick closely to EU rules and keep paying Brussels long after Brexit. MEPs are likely to back a resolution, obtained by The Telegraph, that says Britain and the EU should sign an association agreement, which would be coupled with a free trade deal. The EU has many such association agreements with other countries. The treaties, which give a legal basis for cooperation, are used in some cases as a preliminary step towards EU membership but also for non European nations such as Libya and Azerbaijan.
Britain is facing demands to push back the ‘cut-off date’ for new EU migrants to 2021 in return for a two-year transition deal, it emerged last night. Documents show that EU negotiators plan to issue the demand during the next phase of negotiations in return for the ‘transition deal’ wanted by the Prime Minister. The ultimatum risks infuriating Brexiteers who insist that Brexit should be capitalised on by the Government to regain control of the country’s immigration system. The Brexit divorce deal agreed by Theresa May last week proposes a ‘cut-off date’ of March 2019, after which new EU migrants would lose the automatic right to reside in the UK on a long-term basis. British officials insist the issue has been largely settled in negotiators, the EU believes that the date can be pushed back even further in talks to grants Mrs May a transition deal. An EU document said: ‘In such case, the ‘specified date’ should, in the Commission’s view, be defined not as the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, but as that of the end of the transitional period.’
The European Union (EU) has admitted the Brexit agreement, allowing trade talks to begin, is not legally binding, describing it as a “gentlemen’s agreement.” The European Commission said the UK’s representatives had “shaken hands” on the deal, promising pay huge sums and keep the Irish border open, even if it means the whole of the UK stays tied to EU rules and regulations. On Sunday, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Brexit Secretary David Davis also said the promises made on Northern Ireland were not legally binding unless the UK reached an agreement with the bloc during the second stage of negotiation and a “trade outcome.” He described it as a “statement of intent” and appeared to suggest the UK could back out of the deal, claiming Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, was wrong when he told MPs last week that the UK should pay a “Brexit bill” even if it did not get a trade deal.
BRUSSELS today admitted the Brexit agreement sealed between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday is not legally binding – but insisted Britain must honour it in full. The EU Commission said the pair “shook hands” on the deal, which is set to unlock trade talks later this month, and that it trusts the UK to be as good as its word. Eurocrats sought to clarify the situation after David Davis implied in a television interview that the text was not legally binding on the UK and could be altered. That declaration provoked outrage from the Irish Government, which had pushed hard for concrete promises on the border situation, with Dublin insisting it considered the agreement bullet proof. The Brexit secretary has since insisted that his words were misrepresented by the media and that he had meant to say the agreement was not only legally but also politically binding.
Jean-Claude Juncker has gone fully EU nationalist and creepy on Twitter today saying that the “Sleeping Beauty” of the Lisbon Treaty is now “awake” as he welcomed the foundations of European Defence Union being laid. In a statement, Juncker has said: “In June I said it was time to wake up the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: permanent structured cooperation. Six months later, it is happening. I welcome the steps taken today by Member States to lay the foundations of a European Defence Union. Europe cannot and should not outsource our security and defence. The European Defence Fund that the European Commission proposed will complement these efforts and act as a further incentive for defence cooperation – including potential funding for some of the projects presented today.” Jean-Claude made his ‘State of the Union’ address flagged by images of armed soldiers.
The European Commission president has praised the “sleeping beauty” of the Lisbon treaty for helping bring about the creation of a “European Defense Force,” or European Union (EU) Army. The treaty was initially called the “European Constitution,” before being repackaged as the Lisbon treaty after being rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Ireland later rejected the treaty but was forced to vote again until they accepted it. Today, president Jean-Claude Junker admitted that the shady document was indeed a vehicle for the creation of institutions needed to move toward a European superstate. In a statement, he linked the treaty to the Permanent Structured Cooperation deal (PESCO), signed by 23 member states in November, agreeing to kick-start the EU army by committing to integrate armed forces, boost in common defence spending, and establish a joint headquarters.
No 10 says it is ready to “look at” an amendment that could give MPs the power to delay Brexit, ahead of a possible embarrassing defeat on Wednesday. Tory backbenchers are preparing to rebel on the Withdrawal Bill to ensure Parliament has a binding vote on the final Brexit agreement – before the Government can enact Britain’s withdrawal. The vote is crucial because, if no new satisfactory trade deal is struck by exit day in March 2019, it would be a weapon to extend the Article 50 negotiations. If MPs rejected the deal, making their vote binding would allow them to send Theresa May back to Brussels to ask to delay departure and seek better terms. Around 20 Conservatives have signalled a readiness to defy the Prime Minister, in a move led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve – threatening a first defeat on the legislation. Now the Prime Minister’s spokesman has refused to say the Government will continue to oppose amendment 7, telling journalists: “I don’t have anything for you on that.”
Labour‘s Shadow Brexit Secretary says he believes this week’s deal with the EU means the UK will be linked with the single market “in perpetuity”. Labour supports keeping the closest possible trading ties with the European Union after Brexit and will lobby Prime Minister Theresa May to stick to that, the party’s Brexit policy chief Sir Keir Starmer said on Sunday. Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether “you really think that the agreement that Theresa May struck this week means that Britain will, in perpetuity, stay very, very close to the single market and the customs union?” he said: “Yes.” He added: “And I think that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that.” Sir Keir said: “What are the benefits of the single market and the customs union? They are no tariffs and they are alignment of regulations and standards and that means that for goods and services we can trade successfully in the future. That’s what we want.”
THERESA May last night warned EU leaders her £39billion divorce cheque is off unless they agree a transition deal by March. The PM began to unveil her key demands for the next stage of negotiations yesterday. She told MPs an agreement on a two-year transition period that starts on exit day in 2019 should be sealed as early as possible. Mrs May added that meant within “the first quarter” of next year. Her timetable to reassure worried businesses comes six months earlier than EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s original plan of September. It also emerged last night that No10 expects the EU to put up a fight over its demand to start registering EU citizens living here straight after Brexit. But Brussels is expected to give way on the PM’s third transition criteria, for Britain to be free to negotiate and agree new trade deals during the period. Spelling out exactly what she meant by her Brexit talks motto, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the PM added: “This offer is on the table in the context of us agreeing the partnership for the future. “If we don’t agree that partnership, then this offer is off the table.”
Top figures from Northern Irish society have called on the Irish Prime Minister to help stop Brexit – warning that the UK’s split from the European Union is “offensive and unacceptable”. In a letter sent to Leo Varadkar, more than 200 people from the world of sport, the arts, business, community work and the legal sector say Brexit “threatens to reinforce partition on this island”. The group wrote: “The fact that a majority of voters in the north of Ireland voted to remain within the EU must not be ignored. “Against the stated will of a majority of voters in the north, and notwithstanding recent announcements, Brexit pushes us all into uncharted territory, with huge uncertainty for business and the economy, and continuing doubts about what this will mean in reality for Irish and European citizens living in this region. “We, our children and grandchildren should not be forced out of the EU against our democratic will. “All of this is offensive and unacceptable to us and many others.”
Leaving the European Union will help Britain improve animal welfare standards, Michael Gove has said. The Environment Secretary said it was “good news” that the first stage of Brexit negotiations had been completed so the government could focus on trade and the positive outcomes of leaving. Gove’s comments came as a draft bill enshrining animal sentience into UK law and introducing five-year jail sentences for animal cruelty was published, part of a plan to make sure Brexit works “not just for citizens but for the animals we love and cherish too.” Speaking on Monday at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London, Gove said: “I think it’s good news that we’ve got an agreement to move to the next stage of the Brexit negotiations, where we can talk about trade and talk about some of the changes that will work in Britain’s interest.
The maximum sentence for animal cruelty will be increased to five years in jail and animal sentience will be enshrined in law. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the tough new legislation will help protect animals. On a visit to Battersea Dog and Cats Home yesterday, he also said Brexit would help Britain improve animal welfare standards and combat problems like puppy smuggling. The Government has published a draft bill which will increase the highest penalty for cruelty to animals from six months to five years in England and Wales. By contrast, the maximum sentence is two years in France, three years in Germany and five years in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. The draft also says Ministers ‘must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing Government policy’. The announcement follows controversy over an inaccurate report that Tory MPs had voted that animals did not feel pain. The report spread rapidly online, prompting a furious reaction from Conservatives.
Rail passengers are being denied the chance to buy cheap tickets for the Christmas break by train companies that routinely “mislead” travellers, the official watchdog has said. Six rail firms had still failed to offer a full range of advance purchase fares 11 weeks before Christmas, according to a report by Transport Focus, forcing passengers to buy more expensive tickets. Passengers are also being sold tickets without any warning that their journeys will be disrupted by engineering work. Transport Focus found 14,806 errors in the database passengers used to book tickets ahead of Christmas. Rail firms blamed the problem on Network Rail failing to finalise its schedule of engineering work over the festive break, but the report said the errors were creating a “sense of distrust in the railway”.
Train travellers are being “misled” by rail companies that sell tickets for journeys that they know will be disrupted by engineering work. Research by Transport Focus, the passenger watchdog, found 14,806 errors in the database used to book tickets in the run-up to Christmas when many trains are cancelled, rerouted or replaced by buses. More than 2,600 “incorrect” journeys were displayed on websites for Christmas week, the group said. Network Rail is to spend £160 million on work over Christmas, and services around London, Manchester and on the west coast mainline at Preston will be the most disrupted.
Rail passengers are being misled into buying tickets for trains that will be cancelled over Christmas, a consumer watchdog has warned. As millions make travel bookings for the festive period, the rail industry has been accused of failing to warn passengers about disruption that will be caused by planned engineering works. The failure to provide accurate timetables means passengers who have bought tickets to visit loved ones may find their train has been cancelled, severely disrupted or switched to a slow bus replacement service. Independent watchdog Transport Focus, which carried out the investigation, said: ‘Train passengers are being misled in the run up to Christmas.’ The findings come as Network Rail prepares its biggest ever festive programme of engineering works. Journey times are expected to double for some routes.
A POWERFUL Commons Committee is to investigate into the Transport Secretary over his decision to let two rail firms off a £1.5 billion bill. The head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said she feared taxpayers will be forced to carry the can because of a shake-up slipped out by the Department of Transport a fortnight ago. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is allowing Stagecoach and Virgin to hand back the troubled East Coast Mainline rail franchise three years early in 2020. This means the pair can escape an estimated £1.5 billion in guaranteed premium payments to the Treasury. Government insiders insist they hope a new contract for the line will recoup at least some of the money. But speaking last night PAC chair, Labour’s Meg Hillier said: “Myself and Lilian Greenwood, head of the Transport Select Committee are very concerned about this and will be looking into it in the New Year. “We believe there could be larger problems here. The key thing for me is to make sure taxpayers are protected, and I’m worried they are not.”
Theresa May will unveil a series of new climate change policies in Paris on Tuesday being held to mark the two-year anniversary of the global climate change agreement struck in the city. The move appears to be the latest plank in a new Tory push to stake out new environmentalist credentials following the party’s shock defeat at the general election in June. Viral news stories about fox hunting and badger culling – both of which the party continues to support – slipped under the radar of most mainstream coverage of the election, but were read by millions of people and are thought to have contributed to an increasing negative perception of the party. At the weekend over a dozen Tory MPs tweeted remarkably similar conservationist messages about animals in tandem during the finale of the BBC’s Blue Planet programme – leading to suspicions that they had been instructed to do so by Conservative central office.
A big increase in UK aid for Caribbean countries devastated by hurricanes will be part of a £140m climate change boost for the world’s poorer communities pledged by Theresa May. The Prime Minister is attending the One Planet Summit in Paris, a major conference of world leaders, where she will unveil new proposals to tackle both the effects and causes of climate change. She will announce £15m of additional support for reconstruction on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean, one of the regions most affected by extreme weather associated with climate change. This money will support reconstruction of the island’s water system, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The Government claims the UK funding will make the water system better able to withstand future extreme weather. And to help other individual countries and territories in the Caribbean become more resilient, the UK will give £8m of additional funding for activities including better crisis and response operations on the islands.