Theresa May’s Brexit speech date ‘announced’ by Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt has named the day for Theresa May’s expected speech on Brexit. He told press in Brussels that it would come on 21 September and it would be “very significant.”
He said this just after a meeting with the EU negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier. So what seems to have happened is that over the last couple of days or so, after the snippy joint UK/EU press conference in Brussels on Thursday, the UK has confirmed to the EU that the speech is going ahead.
But there’s no confirmation yet of that date from this side of the Channel and some doubt whether it is nailed down. Mr Verhofstadt’s office now seem to be dialling down the certainty on this.
Mr Verhofstadt also said that Round 4 of the Brexit talks could be pushed back until after the PM’s speech. This doesn’t seem to be nailed down either but it does sound as though it has been mooted.
What this flurry does is confirm that the Theresa May speech, still very much in draft form, is intended to move the Brexit process forward. It is expected by many to put some flesh on the UK’s plans for the transition period after March 2019.
The EU has been impatiently waiting for news of what the UK envisages since their own guidelines to Michel Barnier spelt out their insistence that this must be an off the shelf/existing template, like Norway’s current status. There would not, EU sources argued, be time to negotiate the bespoke arrangement that some pro-Brexit sources had talked about.
The Norway arrangement would mean the UK accepting that in return for businesses not seeing too many changes in the way they trade with the EU for a couple of years or so, the UK would, amongst other things, accept Freedom of Movement and make additional payments to the EU.
Thursday sees the start of the Second Reading of the Bill formerly known (to some) as “The Great Repeal Bill”.
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet tomorrow morning is expected to back a reasoned amendment listing its issues with the bill and then, when that falls, call on Labour MPs to oppose the bill at Second Reading.
The number crunchers in Labour do not expect enough Tory rebels to neutralise their own pro-Brexit dissidents and so they think they are very unlikely to defeat the Government on the bill. The possibility of defeating the Government on any timetabling or “programme” motion is greater but some Tory MPs are signalling they don’t expect to rebel on that either. The Second Reading doesn’t look like being the moment of maximum danger for the Government. The Committee Stage later in the Autumn is a different matter.