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#Brexit: Prominent Brexit campaigner repeats Kremlin lies

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brexit+doorThere is currently much discussion about the forthcoming referendum, in June of this year, on British membership of the European Union (EU).

This is a long-standing issue, and one which most people on both sides of the debate agree must be resolved.

Whilst Euroscepticism in the UK began with the working-class Labour movement, it came to be more associated with the Conservative party, as epitomised by the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.  Subsequently, in the British and in the wider European context, Euroscepticism has been hijacked by the far-right. It is a matter of record that many far-right and Eurosceptic parties are now being funded by Moscow. The French Front National have reportedly received tens of millions of euros of Moscow money.

Many observers, will therefore, understandably, see this debate in the context of Kremlin support for extremist far-right EU political parties, many who are riding their long standing neo-Nazi and facist ideologies on the back of what was once regarded as respectable eurosceptic sentiment.

And so it was interesting to see, this week, a debate, on Press TV, between former political advisor to the European Parliament Gary Cartwright, a long established eurosceptic, and Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group.

The Bruges group has, traditionally, been seen as a leading actor in the debate, helping to define academic and ideolgical positions of the Eurosceptic movement.

Whilst both interlocuters generally agreed on the need for a referendum on the issue, it was in one particular policy area - security - that there was to be a clash.

Cartwright, a co-author of the 2010 petition calling for a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU, stated that the current geo-political situation is not conducive to an action that could break European unity. Specifically, he pointed to the threat to posed to European, and indeed global peace, by the actions of Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Addressing the question of understandable concerns in the east about EU expansion, Cartwright stated that such concerns and, indeed, objections were no justification for Russia to launch it's troops into the sovereign territories of Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014).

Oulds, whilst suggesting that the EU should have accepted a trade agreement with Russia in 2011, appears to blame the currently existing agreement between between the EU and Ukraine, for Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Apparently, according to Oulds, Russia can choose it's trading partners, but Ukraine can not.

Robert Oulds further stated, somewhat surprisingly for one who claims to be a historian, that it is the EU that is responsible for the current divisions in Ukraine. According to Oulds, the EU is responsible for a war that has left "a million people homeless, fleeing to take safe refuge in Russia".

In response to Cartwright's point that Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the first such act in Europe since Adolf Hitler invaded his neighbours, Oulds launched into a rant, claiming that the Crimean people "want to be Russian".

Gary Cartwright suggested that Oulds may wish to ask the Crimean Tatars for their opinion on this....

Towards the end of the debate, Oulds became somewhat agitated, and appeared to blame Georgians for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944.

After the debate, Gary Cartwright told us "The last time I heard such nonsense, it came directly from the Kremlin press service. Of course, Moscow is manipulating, and more importantly, funding the European far-right and Eurosceptic movements. I speak as one who was involved in the Eurosceptic debate for many years, from the beginning, indeed, but I hope that history will not associate me with Putin's useful and paid idiots. I would, as a committed democrat and as a patriot, be ashamed to be associated with such people."

For the original debate, click here.

Brexit

EU tells UK to say how long it will align with EU financial rules

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Britain must spell out how far it wants to diverge from European Union rules if it wants access to the bloc’s financial market from January, a top European Commission official said on Tuesday (27 October), writes

Britain has left the EU and access under transition arrangements ends on 31 December. Future access for the City of London hinges on UK financial rules staying aligned or “equivalent” to regulation in the bloc.

John Berrigan, head of the European Commission’s financial services unit, said Brussels has asked London for more clarification on Britain’s intentions to work out what is an “acceptable level” of divergence.

“We are almost ready,” Berrigan told the European Parliament.

“There will be divergence... but we have to get some mutual understanding of how much divergence is likely to happen, and is that going to be sufficient to allow us to maintain an equivalence arrangement.”

Brussels has granted temporary access for UK clearing houses, but chunks of stock and derivatives trading would move from London to the bloc without equivalence.

Separately, Britain and the EU are discussing a trade deal which would contain only limited references to financial services to avoid tying the bloc’s hands, Berrigan said.

“We see our regulatory co-operation in the financial services field outside the agreement,” he said.

It would consist of a “forum” similar to what the bloc has with the United States to assess potential divergence in rules ahead of time, he said.

“What we don’t want is an equivalence regime that is constantly under threat,” he said.

“We will need at the outset the direction of travel the UK want to go... so we don’t have to keep talking in emergencies about whether equivalence can be maintained or not.”

Britain has said that while it won’t weaken its high regulatory standards, it won’t be a “rule taker” or copy every EU regulation word-for-word to obtain market access.

Berrigan said market participants are generally ready for the “unavoidably fragmenting event” that full Brexit will be in January.

No trade deal would make future cooperation in financial services far more challenging, he added.

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UK will not back down on fisheries policy in EU talks: Gove

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Britain will not back down on its demands to the European Union over fisheries, minister Michael Gove said in a 26 October letter sent to a minister in the devolved Welsh government, writes William James.

Responding to concerns set out by Jeremy Miles, Wales’s Minister for European Transition, Gove wrote: “I am afraid we strongly disagree with your premise that we should ‘back down’ on fisheries.

“The UK government’s view is that in all circumstances, the UK must be an independent coastal state, no longer be bound by the Common Fisheries Policy.”

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Brexit decision entirely separate from US election outcome says PM Johnson

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Britain’s decision on whether to agree a Brexit deal with the European Union is entirely separate to the outcome of the US election next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (26 October), writes William James.

“The two things are entirely separate,” Johnson said, when asked about an Observer newspaper report that he was waiting to see the US result before making a Brexit decision, and whether he was concerned about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.

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