Morning briefing: 'Blind Brexit' biggest danger - Scotch means Scotch - French emergency brake
A big deal is being made today about Theresa May visiting Emmanuel Macron on his holiday island fortress and an article from Michel Barnier published in 20 European newspapers. In reality, neither look likely to push the Brexit debate beyond where have been for the past week - and the biggest danger remains the apparent willingness to fudge any statement on our future relationship with the EU, kicking any real decisions until after we have quit the EU.
Barnier may be preparing the way for this “blind Brexit” - where the vaguest plan for the future is made, with the aim of being able to push it past MPs and thus avoid a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. The EU’s chief negotiator reasserts that he would be willing to “improve the text of our proposal” on the Irish border “backstop” to find a solution that works for May.
The Irish backstop is the key to muddling through to a blind Brexit. It’s the major outstanding component of the withdrawal agreement. If it can be nailed down in the next few months, it’s possible the terms of our future relationship can be fudged and only decided after we quit the EU. Barnier made similar comments about showing flexibility on the backstop last week.
Meanwhile, May will attempt to convince the French president that her Chequers plan is “mutually beneficial” for both countries, with France perceived as the most “disobliging” of the other 27 EU countries. But she has already been told in no uncertain terms that her meeting is “not a negotiation”, with France emphasising that Macron has full trust in Barnier’s negotiation.
A blind Brexit would be an attempt to hoodwink voters. If the political declaration about our future relationship is a pile of mush, we will be in an even weaker position to get a good deal than we are now. The public need to know as much detail as possible before March 29. And if they don’t like it, a People’s Vote would give them the chance to say so.
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE?
Video of the day
WATCH: Theresa May is taking us towards a dangerous Blind Brexit. Ministers repeatedly promised they will negotiate a final deal with the EU by March 2019. Now it's becoming clear this won't happen.
Scotch means Scotch
One point in Barnier’s article worth singling out for special mention is his concern that rules about not ripping off high-value local products such as Scottish whisky are still up in the air. The EU’s “geographical indications” protect local products from cheaper inauthentic mimics from elsewhere in the EU or imported into the single market - often to the great benefit of UK producers. Even the word “Glen” on a German bottle of whisky recently resulted in legal action.
The government wants to set up its own scheme protecting UK brands. It’s unclear how this would work, or whether the UK is willing to guarantee the integrity of other EU products - champagne, parma ham, feta cheese and so on. If the rules are any weaker because of Brexit, local producers could see themselves losing revenue to foreign knock offs.
Tweet of the day
Tory MP and real-life GP Sarah Wollaston takes the no-deal Brexit fanatics to task for their reckless position on the NHS.
Keep UK in EU, says French senator
Europe should try to keep the UK in the EU by offering an emergency brake on free movement, the chair of the French Senate’s Europe committee told the Guardian. Jean Bizet said: “I have no doubt European capitals would accept the introduction of a safeguard clause in which a country closes its borders when the balance of society is judged to be in danger.” He claimed senior figures in the European Commission agreed with this thinking, but it required Theresa May to show a willingness to explore the plan. He hoped Emmanuel Macron would raise the proposal with her when they meet.
Tweet of the day 2
Dragon's Den star Deborah Meaden gets fired up after a meeting with the guys from For our Future's Sake.
Businesses are failing to plan for Brexit
Some worrying details about how businesses are preparing for Brexit have emerged in a recent survey for the Institute of Directors. The poll of 800 businesses found fewer than a third had done any Brexit contingency planning. The rest either didn’t think Brexit would affect them or were waiting for more clarity on the kind of Brexit they’d need to plan for. Their logical assumption is that there’s no point spending resources preparing for something that won’t happen.
But these are illogical times. The overriding characteristic of Brexit has been Theresa May’s willingness to kick tough decision down the road and make a call at the very last minute. The EU may now be willing to buy into this strategy of vagueness (as outlined above). Companies cannot afford to wait and see what the last-minute Brexit reality will be. Because if it’s a bad one, then businesses not being ready will make it much worse.
Quote of the day
“When it comes to knowing what to plan for and when, firms have been left in the dark.
“Trade associations like the IoD are doing their best to fill the information void, but the reality is that many companies feel they can only make changes once there is tangible information about what they are adjusting to.
“As long as no deal remains a possibility, it is essential that the government steps up to the plate and provides advice on preparing for such an outcome.”
Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors
More Brexit news…
Top Brexit comment
Henry Mance: Seven exhausting arguments against a second Brexit referendum (FT £)
Philip Collins: Macron needs to sort out our Brexit mess (Times £)
Gaby Hinsliff: Dark forces gather as UK politics heads for rock bottom (Guardian)
Today, Friday 3 August
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||Theresa May visits Emmanuel Macron|