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UK should 'cool down' and drop #Brexit - Socialist candidate to head European Commission



Britain should use the next few months to “cool down and rethink” its decision to leave the European Union, the socialist candidate to head the next European Commission, Frans Timmermans (pictured), said last week, writes Peter Maushagen.

Two weeks ago, EU leaders gave Britain an extension of its departure date until 31 October, with the possibility of leaving sooner if parliament ratifies a divorce deal Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the EU. Lawmakers have already rejected the deal three times.


“I absolutely hope that the UK might stay in the EU,” Timmermans, now the Commission’s first vice president, said in a television debate on France 24 with his main rival, Manfred Weber of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

“I hope this period of extension will be used for Britain to calm down and rethink things a bit, perhaps for politicians to be more responsible with the promises they make, and then look at the issue again later this year,” the Dutchman said.

“Who knows what might change in the meantime?” he said.

Timmermans was expressing a sentiment shared by some in the EU, notably the chairman of EU leaders, Donald Tusk, that Britain could still change its mind and stay in the EU.

Polls show that enough Britons may have had a change of heart about Brexit since the 2016 referendum, in which they voted to leave the bloc by 52-48%. But May and her government remain strongly opposed to holding another vote.

Timmermans hopes to replace the EPP’s Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, the most powerful of EU institutions. He is running on a ticket from the EU’s second biggest political family, the socialists.

Britain is likely to still be a member of the EU at the time of the European Parliament elections on May 23-26, which means it would take part in the vote. Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which backs a second referendum, could help Timmermans’ socialists win more seats in the 751-seat European assembly.

Weber does not stand to benefit in the same way from British participation in the EU elections because no UK parties belong to the EPP, currently the largest grouping in the parliament.


“I have a problem that they (Britain) are now participating in the EU elections, are deciding about the future of our union,” Weber said during the TV debate with Timmermans.

“That is not easy to understand. I respect the outcome, and if they are part of the EU, they have the right to vote – don’t get me wrong,” he added.

The EU political family with most seats in the European Parliament expects its candidate for Commission president to land the job, although the decision formally lies with EU leaders.

Latest polls - which assume UK participation in the elections - show the EPP winning 178 seats and the socialists getting 144 seats.


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



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




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




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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