The Brief: May struggles to take back control

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The British government will start regular briefings for European journalists posted in London in a bid to win the Brexit media war.

Theresa May was told by her officials that her continental counterparts gleaned much of their information from the stridently Eurosceptic British press. Some leaders suspect the hand of Downing Street behind some of the coverage.

The Financial Times reported that the briefings will start in two weeks and will take place every week.

“It’s about us being able to talk them, to counter misreporting, and to accurately reflect the government’s position,” one official said.

But that isn’t all it is about. It’s about a government desperately trying to take back control of its badly damaged image.

Brexit supporters said quitting the EU would allow the UK to forge an assertive, independent future. The reality has fallen far short of the swaggering and sovereign state that was promised.

In this phoney war period before Article 50 is triggered, the government has blundered from gaffe to gaffe. There appears to be no plan and no understanding of how the EU works.

Just this morning, four EU ambassadors revealed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was in favour of free movement. Here is his attempt to wriggle his way out of his latest scrape.

Earlier this week, photographers snapped a Brexit memo that suggested the British strategy was to have its cake and eat it.

At various times, May has had to slap down each of her “Three Brexiteers”: Boris, Brexit chief David Davis, and trade supremo Liam Fox.

So it makes perfect sense for her to corral London-based EU correspondents to try and wrest back control of the narrative.

But why would the journalists believe what they are told? Especially when there is so much at stake and the Brits seem to have no idea of what they really want.


MEPs have called for a tougher code of conduct for Commissioners. The European Parliament is pushing for the cooling-off period for ex-Commissioners to be extended from 18 months to 36. The Parliament also approved the EU budget for 2017 and is trying to bridge the gap between East and West on posted workers.

The Commission unveiled measures on VAT to support e-commerce. Catherine Stupp has the skinny on what it means for e-books.

Unemployment in the eurozone has dropped below 10% for the first time since April 2011.

The day after the Commission unveiled its Winter Package of energy rules, a new report has found the EU is on track to hit its 2020 renewables target. Here is Greenpeace Europe’s take on the package and EURACTIV’s analysis on the plans to empower consumers.

Donald Tusk has got Georgia on his mind. Jean-Claude Juncker seems to have read the last rites over TTIP in this wide-ranging interview.

Here is the rundown of UKIP’s reshuffle after the election of MEP Paul Nuttall as its new leader. Climate change-denying Roger Helmer keeps his job as energy spokesman.

The EU is pushing for the return of migrants in a renewed relationship with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.

David Davis has told MPs that the UK could pay as it goes for single market access. Women top EURACTIV’s Brexit power list.

Hitler is back in the news in Austria ahead of the presidential elections. Austria’s migration policy has attracted the attention of other member states.

Here’s our house cartoonist Berco on Castro and Balkan accession. And here’s European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on the wave of populism sweeping Europe.

It’s the first day of December. Have you got your advent calendar of the EU’s most wanted criminals yet?


The Women of Europe Awards will be held tonight. The categories include the European woman in power and woman in action prizes. Check EURACTIV tomorrow for all the results and reaction.

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