Theresa May is two days away from triggering Article 50, and the European Union’s chief negotiator knows the stakes are high once Brexit negotiations begin in earnest. Writing in this morning’s FT, Michel Barner warned there will be “ severe consequences” for both sides if Britain is forced to walk away without a deal. What could this “orderly” deal entail? Henry Newman, director of the Open Europe, has explained why it must include Britain leaving the EU’s customs union to “ realise the opportunities of Brexit”. Julian Jessop, chief economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, argues that whatever emerges will defy the gloomy predictions of “disaster” from analysts. “There is little reason to assume that people will fall for Project Fear now”.
Before British negotiators can sit down with Team Barnier, Theresa May caught up with Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon. The Prime Minister used her visit to Scotland to pledge to build a “more united nation” through the Brexit process, but it remains to be seen if the SNP will be mollified. Meanwhile, Labour and Ukip have issued their six tests her eventual deal has to meet in order to win back their support. “Disappointingly the Lib Dems didn’t join in the fun, but I suppose we can guess what their six demands would have been,” writes Michael Deacon. “(“1. Remain in the EU. 2. Don’t leave the EU. 3. Stay in the EU. 4. Avoid exiting the EU. 5. Continue in the EU. 6. Resist departing from the EU.”)”
Paul Nuttall was rather ambitious with his demands, calling for Mrs May to secure by 2019 a full return of parliamentary, commercial and maritime sovereignty, as well as control of Britain’s borders – all without paying the EU a penny. Setting the bar so high will make it very easy for the Ukip leader to find something to latch onto as proof of Brexit “betrayal”. Meanwhile, Labour’s requirements are that Mrs May “must leave things pretty much exactly as they are now”, as Tom Harris put it, which will make it easy for MPs to have an excuse to rise up against the Brexit deal. Labour has picked a side in the Brexit debate, he concludes, “they better start hoping they’ve picked the right one.”
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