Theresa May and her EU counterparts seem likely to trot out the line that a Brexit deal will, probably, be struck, albeit at the 11th hour at this evening’s EU summit. The chaos promised by ‘no deal’ is very much in the minds of officials on both sides of the Channel.
‘What keeps you awake at night? (in the event of no deal)’ was the first question posed to civil service chiefs for transport, health and customs by Hilary Benn, the chair of the UK Parliament’s Exiting the EU committee, this morning.
The health and transport supremos appeared to be relatively unconcerned, believing that they would be able to resolve reciprocal health agreements and ensure that there is no disruption to the travel of citizens and businesses.
“I expect people to be able to fly,” was the conclusion of Bernadette Kelly, who leads the Transport department.
But her counterpart from the tax and customs office was less sanguine.
When it comes to policing the border, said Jon Thompson, who runs the UK’s customs and revenue agency, “we simply don’t know whether the French, Dutch, Belgians and Germans will be reasonable or will be legalistic”.
Thompson may have had no clue in the morning, but the French Senate offered some help shortly afterwards, publishing draft emergency legislation.
“The consequences of a no-deal exit of the UK from the EU will be particularly heavy in the road transport of people and goods sector, the rules of access…being defined by EU law,” warns the bill.
In other words, Northern Ireland would not be the only UK frontier to face a hard border with the EU.
Amongst other provisions in the draft bill, Britons could need visas to enter France and cartes de séjour [residence permits] to stay.
In Berlin, meanwhile, Angela Merkel told the Bundestag that her government was stepping up its own ‘no deal’ preparations.
Yet despite the apparent urgency, Mrs May has little new to offer EU leaders this evening despite it having long been billed as the crunchiest of crunch summits.
Nor are her closest ministers too worried about talks being strung out even longer. Environment minister and Leave campaigner Michael Gove hinted that it would be better if the planned ‘special summit’ in November now takes place on the 13th and 14th December.
While London and Brussels continue intent on taking their game of double-bluff to the brink, both the ‘no deal’ planning and the confusion that so clearly surrounds it are a salutary reminder that to those who live, work and travel between Blighty and the Continent, this is anything but a game.
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by Alexandra Brzozowski
Tonight is Brexit dinner. There is war on all fronts as British PM May faces a puzzle of Brexit Rubik’s cube. The EU side offers UK a sweetener as it is ready to extend the post-divorce transition period with Britain, diplomats said. What’s holding up Brexit talks? Here’s the Irish border issue explained.
Italy’s Salvini has branded French President Macron as ‘international shame’ after police dumped migrants across the border, paving the way for an interesting dinner table conversation tonight.
In the race to find the next Commission President, EPP’s Alexander Stubb has firmly positioned himself against the ‘illiberal’ forces gaining momentum across the EU.
France is hoping to avoid reopening the eternal political debate surrounding migration and make progress on specific aspects, including Brexit, even though the final agreement is not ready.
There might be some movement in the Macedonia name deal issue: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will take over the foreign affairs portfolio following a surprise decision of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to resign, which opens new opportunities.
NATO sees a new cyber command centre by 2023 as Europe readies for cyber threats and considers sanctions. Meanwhile, a cybersecurity firm confirmed that hackers have infected three energy and transport companies in Ukraine and Poland.
Meanwhile, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová will sit down with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross tomorrow, to clear the air on the issues relating to the EU-US Privacy shield.
The Bavarian election fall-out continues: Green politician Jürgen Trittin discussed the consequences of the Bavarian state election on German national politics and his party’s new role in the shifting political landscape.
France and Germany dressed down Poland for pressing ahead with controversial changes to its supreme court despite EU calls for restraint.
US officials announced negotiations for separate trade agreements with Britain, the EU and Japan as part of efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to rebalance global commerce.
Poland also attacked EU’s Gazprom deal in court. It is a bit surprising to see the Commission chief advocating additional imports in the EU of US LNG, a fossil fuel which produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, writes Danila Bochkarev.
Nearly one billion people have escaped poverty worldwide since the 1st #EndPoverty Day, but too many others have been left behind, even in Europe, writes Luca Jahier.
Next week’s Strasbourg vote on the proposed unfair trade practices directive is crucial as there will be no time to pass the bill in this legislature in the event of a non-approval, the MEP piloting the file has warned.
Look out for…
European Council Day 2. Focus is on migration and internal security, but watch out for the external affairs segment that might deal with the cybersecurity uproar of the past weeks.
Views are the author’s