Johnson to Meet EU's Juncker for First Talks: Brexit Update

Johnson to Meet EU's Juncker for First Talks: Brexit Update

Bloomberg  | Sep 13, 2019 07:55

Johnson to Meet EU's Juncker for First Talks: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson will travel to Luxembourg for his first face-to-face talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Brexit on Monday. The prime minister has said he’s hopeful of striking a deal and that both sides “can see the rough area of landing space” for it.

Meanwhile, political and legal challenges are mounting against Johnson’s threat to deliver Brexit without a divorce deal if necessary. The British prime minister still wants a general election to break the impasse, and will appeal to voters in pro-Brexit areas of northern England in a speech on Friday.

Key Developments:

  • Johnson to travel to Luxembourg for Brexit talks with Juncker; he’ll also meet his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel
  • British prime minister is due to speak in northern England at 12:30 p.m. on Friday
  • Irish PM Varadkar said “exploratory discussions” underway with U.K. on alternatives to the backstop, but two sides still far apart
  • DUP’s Wilson rejected report it will allow regulatory checks in the Irish Sea and that it has softened its stance on keeping Northern Ireland aligned with the EU
  • Outgoing House of Commons Speaker John Bercow warned Johnson that MPs won’t let him force a no-deal Brexit. An election will take place for a new Speaker on Nov. 4
Commons to Elect New Speaker on Nov. 4 (11:35 a.m.)

The House of Commons has announced that the election for a new speaker will take place on Monday Nov. 4, shortly after the incumbent, John Bercow steps down.

The process for choosing the speaker is steeped in tradition. Once Bercow stands aside, the famous Speaker’s Chair inside the Commons chamber will be occupied by the longest serving member of Parliament, 79 year-old former Chancellor Ken Clarke. He will preside over the election as the rival candidates make their pitches to the House.

Successive secret ballots will follow, until one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, or a single contender remains. By tradition, the winner is dragged from his seat in the Commons and marched across the chamber to take up his new position in the Speaker’s Chair.

Bercow earlier in the week said that he’ll step down On Oct. 31. His deputy, Labour’s Lindsay Hoyle, is the favorite to succeed him.

Johnson to Meet with Juncker on Monday (11:10 a.m.)

Boris Johnson will travel to Luxembourg at “lunchtime” on Monday for Brexit talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his office said on Friday. It will be the first meeting between Johnson and Juncker since the British premier took office in July.

Later in the day, Johnson will meet with his counterpart in Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel.

The meetings are a sign Johnson is ramping up engagement with the EU to try to resolve the impasse over Brexit. He has pledged to take the U.K. out of the bloc “do or die” on Oct. 31 without a deal if necessary, but that his preference is for a divorce agreement. One U.K. official played down the chances of a breakthrough on Monday.

U.K. Sees Progress in Rolling Over Trade Deals (11 a.m.)

As part of preparations for leaving the European Union, the U.K. has been trying to roll over trade deals with third countries that it currently benefits from through its EU membership, so that they also apply after Brexit. Those deals account for 139 billion pounds ($173 billion) or 10.7 percent of total trade.

On Friday, the country said it’s now rolled over 64.2 percent of that trade, and that once an agreement in principle reached Sept. 10 with a group of African nations including South Africa is ratified, the proportion will be 71.2 percent. That protects 99 billion pounds of commerce; an increase of 38.5 billion pounds since March, according to the government analysis.

Canada remains the biggest holdout against a rollover, with trade worth more than 18 billion pounds currently governed by the EU’s deal with the North American nation. And business groups have said that even some of the rolled over deals don’t protect all trade governed by the existing EU deals, because they have been weakened.

Farage Shows Johnson the Way in Pro-Brexit North (10 a.m.)

Voters in Hartlepool demonstrated why Boris Johnson is traveling north to deliver his election pitch on Friday. They handed control of the northeast town’s council to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, the BBC reported, delivering a significant blow to the Labour Party in an area it traditionally dominates.

Johnson is targeting pro-Brexit voters who have become disillusioned with Labour as it shifts toward backing a second referendum on leaving the European Union. His Conservative Party hopes it can take seats in Leave areas to offset any it might lose to Labour or the pro-EU Liberal Democrats in Remain-leaning districts.

But the Hartlepool result is further evidence he’s unlikely to get the Brexit vote to himself. Johnson’s officials ruled out an electoral pact with Farage this week, but the question won’t go away if the Tories see the pro-Brexit vote still split heading into a national poll.

Brexit Gap ‘Very Big,’ Irish PM Says (Earlier)

Ideas floated so far to replace the backstop -- the fallback measure in the Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to keep the Irish border free of checks -- fall “very short” of what’s needed, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

In interviews with Irish radio stations RTE and Newstalk, he said that while the two sides are talking and he’ll fight for an agreement to the last day, a no-deal Brexit remains a “real risk.” Some “exploratory discussions” are underway with the British government as Johnson seeks “alternate arrangements” to the backstop, he said.

“We’ve always accepted that alternative arrangements could supersede the backstop,” Varadkar said. “But I think the gap is very big at the moment.”

Wilson: ‘Nonsense’ to Say DUP Softening on Backstop (Earlier)

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, denied the party was prepared to shift its red lines to help unlock a divorce deal between the U.K. and the European Union. Wilson was commenting after the Times newspaper reported the DUP would drop its objection to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea -- an idea they have always said amounted to barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

The Times article is “totally untrue,” Wilson told BBC Radio. A concession on those lines “is contrary to the position we have adopted throughout the debate,” he said, adding that Boris Johnson’s government has “has made it quite clear that it will not accept an arrangement which has a backstop, which separates Northern Ireland out from the rest of the United Kingdom.”


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