15 Nov 2017

Merkel ally: December breakthrough possible

Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP in the European Parliament and an ally of Chancellor Merkel, has left a meeting with Theresa May feeling a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the European Council meeting in December. Theresa May desperately needs that to be the moment that Brexit talks move on to Phase 2 (transition and future relationship). If that didn’t happen, she has been repeatedly warned by businesses and the Treasury, many firms will start pressing the button to move staff and units to the EU27.

In a press conference after the meeting, Mr Weber said he didn’t want to say what Mrs May had said to boost his spirits (he’d been pretty pessimistic only yesterday). But he was repeatedly asked whether the UK had promised more money beyond the £20b already conceded in the Florence Speech.

EU leaders have been clear that they weren’t expecting the UK to promise an explicit number at this phase but were expecting assurances that the UK accepted its responsibilities for outstanding spending and other liabilities. Officials have been trying to work out a way of breaking down the component parts of the bill without those headings pointing definitively to numbers.

Mr Weber said there was progress on “how to guarantee” monies, “technical arrangements” and “practicability.”

You came away from his briefing sensing that on the issue of money, the two sides could be approaching some kind of understanding. Michel Barnier has said the EU27 want an outline deal two weeks ahead of the European Council meeting in December so the government is very close to the deadline he has said matters.

In the Commons, MPs have been debating the second day of the Committee Stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Priti Patel gave her first speech since being forced to leave the government. She said she’d had a personal crash course in exiting. The government is not expected to lose any of the votes currently under way or the ones scheduled for later this evening.

There’s been a lot of focus instead on headlines in “The Telegaph” and the “Daily Mail” respectively calling the Tory rebels “mutineers” and “collaborators.”

One Tory rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, told Channel 4 News that the use of the word “collaborators” (the Daily Mail headline was inspired by an article by Sir Bill Cash in “The Times”) was “inflammatory and unworthy of a Member of Parliament” and condemned it as “divisive and abusive language.” She also said she found it “personally very offensive (as) my mother lived under Nazi occupation.”

Brexit supporting Tory MPs told me they refer to Vicky Ford (also featured on the front of “The Telegaph” as one of the “mutineers) as “Vichy” Ford. The former MEP told me that was “enormously unhelpful” language.

Bob Neill, also front page news in “The Telegraph,” said he thought the paper was trying to “bully” MPs but it would be “counter-productive.”

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One reader comment

  1. H Statton says:

    I can’t say Theresa May and Manfred Weber looked especially jubilant in the photo taken inside No.10, at least not the one I saw, hope they had cheerier relations around the table although how many counters were shuffled across the abacus, if any…

    As Tom Brake reiterated again on Wednesday, the ‘EU makes it explicitly clear, no deal AT ALL without divorce first.’ Michele Barnier’s ultimatum – two words: two weeks. Tick tock.

    David Davis has said he has numerous sector analyses “already done”, and that the analyses were written “in excruciating detail”. How does a sixty page document (originally, said to be ‘over fifty’ pages long, then fifty eight pages, to sixty pages long) suddenly go missing, assuming it was written in the first place? Is Davis stalling publication; his department has refused several Freedom of Information requests to see it. And as for the final Brexit vote, “It’s a meaningful vote but it’s not meaningful in the sense that you can reverse the whole decision.” You can vote for the manner of your execution once you’re dead; curiouser and curiouser.

    As for the ‘revolting’ crowd, it’s refreshing to see politicians putting principle before party, that’s a rarity these days. The Daily Mail was quick to vilify, accusing them of betraying voters and of course the Telegraph with its naming and shaming by picturing the ‘culprits’ on the front page like a rogue’s gallery. And it may backfire. Other Tory MPs might take umbrage at the thought of being bullied, pushed around. Anna Soubry was always confident of a revolt it’s just a case of numbers. And so it goes.

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