Brexit: Theresa May says ‘trust me’ to deliver

PM appeals to the public for ‘help’ in bid to break Brexit deadlock

UK and EU flags
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Brexit: Tony Blair calls for new EU exit referendum

04 January

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair wants a new Brexit referendum so the British public can “think again” about the UK’s future relationship with the bloc, warning that Brexit will destroy Britain’s clout and be regretted for generations.

Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that voters should have a say on the final withdrawal deal once “terms of the alternative relationship” are finalised.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Blair also attacked Jeremy Corbyn's “confusing” approach to Brexit in separate media interviews, urging Labour to oppose Brexit outright, The Independent reports.

But The Spectator’s Tom Goodenough says Blair’s “shrill” Brexit warnings “won’t persuade anyone”.

Blair’s “political stock fell dramatically” when Britain joined the US-led Iraq war, says Associated Press, “and there are no indications that his opposition to Brexit is gaining traction within the party”.

Lord Lamont, 75, the former Conservative chancellor, called Blair’s intervention “straight out of the EU school of referendums,” The Times reports. “Only vote when you know what the result is going to be. If it’s a ‘no’, have another one, if it’s a ‘yes’, carry on”.

Brexit: is Gibraltar May’s next headache?

20 December

Britain and Spain’s 300-year-old conflict over Gibraltar threatens to become the next hurdle in Brexit negotiations.

UK officials fear Spain will “veto a Brexit transition phase” if Theresa May refuses to negotiate a separate deal regarding the small stretch of land, to which both countries lay claim, reports Bloomberg.

“In a reopening of an incendiary row that has the potential to explode the entire negotiation, Madrid has insisted it wants concessions,” says the Daily Mail.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has suggested that any transitional arrangements agreed by the UK and the EU could only apply to Gibraltar with Madrid’s consent.

Jorge Toledo, Spain’s minister for EU affairs, said last week that “unless the UK and Spain speak bilaterally, on March 30 2019 nothing will apply [to Gibraltar] - no transition period, nothing”, the Financial Times reports.

Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s foreign minister, told Spanish news agency EFE that Madrid would “soon hold talks” with the British, but did not give any further details.

Unsurprisingly, Britain has a different point of view about how Gibraltar, a British territory since 1713, fits into Brexit.

Both the UK and Gibraltar insist the Rock is covered by the withdrawal talks, which include transitional arrangements, the Gibraltar Chronicle says.

“I have made clear that as we negotiate these matters, we’ll be negotiating for the UK, but that includes negotiating to ensure that the relationships are there for Gibraltar as well,” May told the House of Commons this week.

The European Commission is issuing its draft negotiating mandate today, setting out how the transition will be navigated.

“British officials are concerned the Spanish are trying to water down what they feel has been a clear commitment not to bring Gibraltar into the exit talks,” Politico says.

Brexit: Barnier slams door on ‘bespoke’ Canada-plus deal

18 December

The European Commission’s chief negotiator says Britain must “face the consequences” of Brexit - and that means selecting one of the existing models to deal with the 27 member states after March 2019.

“There won’t be any cherry picking,” Michel Barnier told Prospect magazine, in an interview published online this weekend. “No way. They [Britons] have to face the consequences of their own decision.”

His warning came as Theresa May sat down today with ministers to discuss the UK’s vision for its future relationship with the bloc. Brexit negotiations are now entering phase two, aimed at determining how Britain will exit from the European Union, the single market and the customs union by March 2019.

Barnier ruled out a bespoke relationship that could mix, for example, the advantage of the Norwegian model - retaining membership of the EU single market - with the simple requirements of the Canadian model.

No 'Canada plus' trade deal

Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested the UK could negotiate a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trade deal within a year - selecting “the best of Japan, the best of South Korea and that the bit that is missing, which is the services”.

However, “Barnier could not be any more brutal in dismissing all of this”, says Prospect.

The EU has previously suggested the UK could benefit from an arrangement similar to Canada’s. But that “could harm trade in goods and would be particularly damaging for the services that make up most of the British economy”, says Bloomberg.

In any event, Barnier has said it will take three years to negotiate a trade deal, so it is unlikely to be ready for the UK’s preferred timing of October 2018. Speaking to Prospect, he said that parallel trade talks will “probably” start in March 2018.

“May might have to agree a divorce settlement and settle the Brexit bill without knowing precisely what the future relationship would look like,” says the Financial Times.

This scenario carries the additional potential risk “that the deal she strikes in Brussels is not acceptable to the British parliament”, adds the newpaper.

The UK's vision

So what does the UK envision for its future relationship with the EU? May started that discussion with her EU Exit and Trade (Strategy and Segotiations) sub-committee today.

According to The Times, ministers including Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are set to agree that “Britain must be allowed to draw up its own rules on areas such as technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and data sharing, rather than be subject to EU rules made after 2021”.

Ignoring EU rules drawn up after that date will form the centrepiece of a “gradual” process of divergence away from the EU - “a more likely direction of travel than plans for a ‘big bang’ change in 2021 once the transition has concluded”, the newspaper concludes.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.