The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

Good afternoon.

The last time Theresa May and David Davis sat down for dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker, a suspiciously well-informed account of the meal – which wasn’t very flattering about the British side – ended up in the German press. Prompted perhaps by a furious Angela Merkel, the Commission president apologised for his side’s “ grave mistake”. Mrs May will hope to avoid a similar saga when she sits down with him once more this evening. Despite this prior friction, our Brussels correspondent James Crisp suggests that she can tell herself that she has ” chosen the most sympathetic dinner hosts she could possibly find in Brussels“.

Downing Street says their meeting has been in the diary for a few weeks, although the Europeans officials are putting it out that it was only confirmed in the last few days. Its timing is useful for Mrs May, as she hopes to grease European wheels before the remaining 27 leaders meet later this week to decide whether Michel Barnier can expand his brief to include the subject of trade. Before dinner, she spoke to French president Emmanuel Macron about “progress in the negotiations” ( a No 10 spokesman said) as well as Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The Prime Minister might hope the European political climate will give her cause a boost. Sebastian Kurz, likely Austria’s next chancellor, has regularly urged Europe to be pragmatic in its treatment of the British over the exit negotiations. A few months ago, I noted, he suggested that the EU could respond to Britain leaving by cutting back on spending, rather than shaking the British down – or taxpayers of other countries – for every last penny.

Any easing in tensions will be welcomed by British ministers, who have expressed their keenness to make progress. Boris Johnson said that the EU must “stop letting the grass grow under our feet”, and that it is “time to head for the open sea” and move talks on. Downing Street says that journalists may get a briefing on tonight’s dinner afterwards, but President Juncker has been more colourful. “We will talk and you will have the autopsy report afterwards,” he said at a press conference today. If he is going into tonight’s meeting with an open mind, some will wonder rightly why he is channeling Gunther von Hagens in his suggestion that everyone will soon have the gruesome details of tonight’s meeting to pore over. Whatever emerges, we’ll have the latest on telegraph.co.uk.

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EU: Delusions without Borders

On September 13, the President of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, Jean Claude Juncker gave his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, saying:

“Last year… Europe was battered and bruised by a year that shook our very foundation. We only had two choices. Either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat into our own corners… I argued for unity. I proposed a positive agenda to help create … a Europe that protects, empowers and defends… Over the past twelve months, the European Parliament has helped bring this agenda to life. We continue to make progress with each passing day… In the last year, we saw all 27 leaders… renew their vows… to our Union. All of this leads me to believe: the wind is back in Europe’s sails.”

Most EU citizens probably wondered what EU Juncker was talking about. The EU Juncker inhabits does not appear to be the same one most Europeans live in.

This past year in Europe, a terrorist attack was attempted every seven days, on average. Juncker delivered his speech just two days before yet another terrorist attack, this time on the London underground, perpetrated by an 18-year old migrant. The European Commission, however, does not appear particularly concerned with such matters. Juncker mentioned terrorism only very briefly toward the very end of his long speech, almost as if it were an afterthought:

“The European Union must also be stronger in fighting terrorism. In the past three years, we have made real progress. But we still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats. This is why I call for a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police”.

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The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

Good afternoon.

The European Parliament’s regular jamboree in Strasbourg saw it chastised yesterday by Jean-Claude Juncker for the “ absolutely ridiculous” level of interest its members showed in coming to listen to him – as only 30 of the 751 were present. “I will never again attend a meeting of this kind,” the Commission president declared, refusing to back down in face of protests from the EP’s President Antonio Tajani. Given how hard the European Union has been trying to look united during the Brexit negotiations, such squabbling between leading Eurocrats does not look good.

Tempers continued to fray when Mr Juncker’s second-in-command, Frans Timmermans, stepped into the chamber, but his ire was aimed at a Ukip MEP who suggested – ahead of this Friday’s G20 summit in Hamburg –  that members from outside the EU would happily fill the trade gap if the bloc refused to give Britain fair access to the single market. “To say that the whole of European Union is going to suffer terribly in the G20 because of Brexit is a bit rich frankly,” the Commission’s Vice-President shot back, comparing him to the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “who after being defeated terribly and having all of his limbs cut off, says to his opponent, ‘let’s call it a draw’. (After such an allusion, he declared himself to be a “lover of British culture”)

The Euro-humour was shelved when Mr Timmermans spoke of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. He said that “we are all under an economic, a political and, above all, a moral obligation to do the least harm possible in this Brexit process.” This marks a considerably softer tone than other European leaders like Emmanuel Macron, who described Brexit as a “crime” that would leave Britain in “servitude”.

Does Mr Timmermans’ rhetoric mark a more pragmatic approach from the EU side? It comes after the Prime Minister of Malta, which has finished its six-month term holding the rotating presidency of the EU, berated other leaders for doing “nothing” to stop Britain leaving the bloc. They may have sounded after the referendum like they wanted to leave the Britain hobbling about like Monty Python’s Black Knight, but British negotiators will be relieved to see they are keen now for something completely different: to do business.

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No, May could not have avoided this battle over EU nationals

As the row over EU nationals dominates the opening of the Brexit negotiations, Theresa May is once again coming under attack for her refusal to offer them a unilateral guarantee that they be “allowed to stay”.

George Osborne has just alleged, via his newspaper, that the then-Home Secretary single-handedly stopped David Cameron from doing so in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.

With the EU’s negotiators taking a dim view of what the Government considers to be a “big and generous” offer, the idea seems to be developing that the Prime Minister could have avoided the whole row by taking the high and generous path in the first place.

Yet this is not the case. In fact, by exposing the depth and complexity of the issues at involved the current dispute actually suggests three important countervailing points: that a broad-strokes guarantee would not have avoided the present showdown; that the EU made working out a detailed guarantee before now basically impossible; and that such concessions would have been an extremely ineffective, even counter-productive, negotiating tactic.

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Nigel Farage says Jean-Claude Juncker’s Brexit remarks show Brussels ‘worried’

Nigel Farage has said comments by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that Britain may move to divide remaining EU members during Brexit talks show Brussels is “worried and nervous” about UK tactics.

Mr Juncker expressed concern that London may attempt to break EU unity in the negotiations by making separate promises to different nations during the crunch divorce talks.

Former Ukip leader Mr Farage told the Press Association that the remarks “showed cracks were appearing” in the EU stance as tough exit horse-trading looms.

“I am surprised that Jean-Claude Juncker is so worried about the British.

“From a UK perspective, I am pleased to see his nervousness. Up until now we have been constantly told it is going to be us versus the other 27.”

According to Reuters, Mr Juncker told Deutschlandfunk radio: “The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle this. They could promise country A this, country B that, and country C something else, and the end game is that there is not a united European front.”

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Trump and International Security

Since Donald Trump’s election, media-fuelled panic has engulfed Europe, including over defence and security. We are told that World War III is imminent, that Trump will jump into bed with Putin and pull the US out of NATO. Such fantasies are put about by media cheerleaders for European political elites, terrified that Trump’s election will inspire support for populist candidates in the forthcoming elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

In fact, it is the EU, not Donald Trump, that threatens to undermine NATO and the security of the West. In recent days, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen have suggested that Trump’s election should give greater impetus to a European defence force.

This has been an EU aspiration for many years. Citing Trump is just a cynical pretext for speeding it up. It is already well advanced and has gained greater focus since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The EU army is a vanity project, seen by many European leaders as a necessary instrument of the ever-closer union they desire. Speaking at a meeting of the European Defence Agency in Brussels the day after Trump’s election, Ms Mogherini suggested that the EU needs “the full potential of a super power, in the field of defence and security.”

To the economically atrophied EU, a defence union also has the potential for enormous financial savings. The intention will be to aggregate national military capabilities under what will no doubt be described as rationalization and efficiency. This will bring swingeing cuts to European defence capability. It will also severely reduce flexibility and the redundancy which is so vital to military forces that have any expectation of combat in which attrition and multiple simultaneous threats might occur.

The byzantine EU bureaucracy, combined with timidity in so many European nations, will ensure its army could never be deployed in anger. An EU defence union will also present a direct threat to NATO, competing for funds, building in duplication and confusion, and setting up rival military structures. In her speech, Ms Mogherini even spelt out the need for a single EU headquarters for military missions, which she likened to SHAPE, the NATO command centre.

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EU top dog: “We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works”

Donald Trump’s US election victory poses risks for the relationship between the European Union and the United States, the EU commission president has warned.

The president-elect was ignorant of the EU and its workings, Jean-Claude Juncker, told students at a conference in Luxembourg.

“The election of Trump poses the risk of upsetting intercontinental relations in their foundation and in their structure,” said Juncker, who as head of the EU’s executive is one of Europe’s most powerful political figures.

His remarks reflected widespread shock and concern among Europeans at the election of Trump, who among other statements has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and questioned the principle of collective defence in Nato.

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