My #Remainer’s Diary Day 390: in Brussels the fifth round of negotiations ended in deadlock. At a press conference Michel Barnier, referring to the question of how much Britain would pay to settle the accounts, said: “This week, however, the UK repeated that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments. On this question, we have reached an impasse, which is very worrying for thousands of projects everywhere in Europe and also worrying for those who contribute.”
He said he could not advise the next European Council meeting that there had been sufficient progress for the talks to move on to the future relationship after the UK left. He said it was important to respect the “sequencing”.
This means no progress before December. The pound fell in currency markets at the news.
Jess Geier MEP, vice chair of the European Budget Committee, told Channel 4 News: “There is not an offer. There is a speech in Italy. There will be an offer when Mr Davis comes back to the negotiating table with a piece of paper and says this is the British offer for settling the accounts… In the moment we have a quotation from a speech in Florence. I mean, are we in the 19th century? This is not how we do politics in the European Union any more. We need to have something on the table to negotiate…”
Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News said what was really significant was that it transpired that the real obstacle was not the European Commission but the Council of EU27 leaders and not least Germany.
There is no sign of a softening of the EU27’s stance on this, though British newspapers attempted to make something of a draft paper for the European Council meeting suggesting, in effect, that discussions begin amongst themselves in preparation for later discussions with the UK.
Former Irish prime minister and former EU ambassador to the US John Bruton, speaking in Brussels, told the Evening Standard that “the Foreign Secretary — who should be an authoritative figure, in terms of understanding the needs of other countries — has set forth red lines that, quite literally, make any deal completely impossible. And yet he continues to be Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary.”
He said: “Even if the UK were to be allowed to move on to the trade negotiation, they don’t have a worked-up proposal… I have serious doubts about whether the current UK Government is able to come forward with a proposal on the future relationship without splitting fatally.”
And a few hours earlier Arlene Foster of the DUP told ITV News that a hard border along the Irish Sea would be a disaster for Northern Ireland and a red line for her party. She emphasised that Theresa May understood that this could not happen.
Ms Foster emphasised that her party’s reason for entering into the confidence and supply agreement with the Tories was to bring stability to the UK.
The frontier between Ireland and the UK runs partly across the island and for the remainder of its length, along the Irish Sea. That invisible line through the fields of Northern Ireland and the waters of that sea will be the EU frontier after Brexit. It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of this. The DUP campaigned for Brexit. But a majority in Northern Ireland voted Remain. There are more important things to the DUP than Brexit. A hard border is unthinkable. So the DUP is saying it will not allow a hard Brexit. And without the DUP, the Tories cannot get it through the House of Commons.
In Westminster the Government told MPs that the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill was being postponed.
Solicitors for the Good Law Project wrote to DExEU threatening judicial review proceedings unless within 14 days the Government releases the 50 or more studies it has obtained on the impact of Brexit. We already have advance warning that the studies contain bad news. That case will be one to watch.
Also in London (for the moment) the European Banking Authority published a 69-page opinion in response to the “unprecedented situation” of the Article 50 notification. Among other things the EBA opines that “existing authorisation standards should not be lowered and that the same procedures and standards that have always applied should continue to do so. In addition… firms seeking authorisation should undergo a rigorous assessment against the relevant requirements. Firms should provide a clear explanation of the choices they are making in terms of the substance of the incoming entity, and “empty shell” companies should not be authorised.”
The EBA also expresses the opinion that for the provision of investment services in the EU, adequate prudential supervision and oversight for institutions established in the Union should entail “an updated prudential framework… Investment services provided by third country investment firms should also be subject to adequate prudential rules and oversight.”
“Third country” firms will, if Brexit goes ahead, include UK firms.
The EBA also “notes the potential for Brexit to impact on ongoing resolution reforms, not least in the area of building loss absorbing capacity.” It states that it is important that “institutions and authorities consider the implications of the departure of the UK for the build-up of MREL [the minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities] and take steps now to mitigate relevant risks.”
Ominous for the City of London.
Brexit is looking less and less feasible.