Brexit: Make up your mind on future trade deal or we’ll do it for you, EU tells Theresa May
Theresa May’s plan for a post-Brexit trade deal has been immediately written off by the EU as “pure illusion” less than 24 hours after she convinced her ministers to back it at a special lock-in session of Cabinet intended to sort out the UK’s trade stance once and for all.
Speaking after an informal summit of EU27 leaders in Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk said Britain still did not understand that it could not ‘have its cake and eat it’, warning that the EU would push ahead with its own plans if the UK did not produce something substantial.
Mr Tusk told reporters it would “be much better” if the UK had an idea of what it wanted ahead of next month’s meeting, but that “we cannot stand by and wait”. The public slap down comes after ministers backed a vague promise of “ambitious managed divergence” at a lock-in away day at the PM’s country residence Chequers.
EU rejects Theresa May’s ‘three baskets’ Brexit trade plan.
“Our intention is to adopt these guidelines whether the UK is ready with its vision of our future relations or not,” Mr Tusk told reporters.
“Naturally, it would be much better if it were, but we cannot stand by and wait. I hope to have some more clarity about the UK’s plans this week when I meet Prime Minister May in London.”
He added: “I am glad that the UK government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position, however if the media reports are correct I am afraid that the UK position today is based on pure illusion.
“It looks like the [have your] ‘cake’ [and eat it] philosophy is still alive. From the very start it has been a key principle of the EU27 that there can be no cherry picking and no single market à la carte. This will continue to be a key principle, I have no doubt.”
The European Commission wants cuts to spending on agricultural subsidies and cohesion funds – help for poorer member states – which make 70 per cent of the EU budget. Countries are also being asked to contribute more to make up the shortfall, while other revenue-raising measures such as a plastic tax have also been proposed.
The bloc also wants to increase spending on immigration and border control to tackle the migration crisis, a particular priority of the Austrian government, which will chair the EU council in the second half of this year.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt explained the position the UK Cabinet had come to on Brexit trade on BBC Radio 4 this morning. He said the UK wanted “frictionless trade” while also leaving the customs union.
He said there was a “central common understanding” that “there will be areas and sectors of industry where we agree to align our regulations with European regulations, such as the automotive industry”.
But he added: “But it will be on a voluntary basis. We will, as a sovereign power, have the right to choose to diverge, and what we won’t be doing is accepting changes in rules because the EU unilaterally chooses to make those changes.”
The proposal appears to be one that has already been ruled out by the European Union’s negotiators. Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator, has repeatedly said that trade barriers would have to be erected were the UK to leave the customs union and single market, and that Britain cannot “cherry pick” parts of the EU to remain in.
Documents released by the European Commission on the eve of the Chequers meeting reiterated that the plan Ms May was attempting to convince her ministers of crossed EU red lines and would not be acceptable.
The Prime Minister is currently trying to negotiate the transition period for Brexit, and wants to complete it before the March summit of the European Council, where she will meet other EU leaders. After that summit both sides hope to move to discussions about what framework trade will be conducted in, though a full trade agreement would only be negotiated after Britain leaves in March 2019.
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Former Liberal cabinet minister blasts Trudeau over attempted murderer’s Delhi dinner invite.
Former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh is speaking out after the man who was acquitted of beating him nearly to death three decades ago was invited to dine with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India.
Jaspal Atwal, a former member of an illegal Sikh separatist group, was invited to a formal dinner-reception hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner on Thursday in Delhi, CBC News reports.
Atwal was convicted of the attempted murder of Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986. He was also charged, but not convicted, in a near-fatal 1985 attack on Dosanjh, a vocal opponent of the Sikh separatist movement’s push for an independent state of Khalistan.
On Tuesday night in Mumbai, Atwal was photographed posing with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, as well as Canadian cabinet ministers and MPs.
Trudeau has since rescinded the invite, and Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai apologized for submitting Atwal’s name to the guest list.
As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to Dosanjh, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, about what the invite means for him personally, and for India-Canada relations more broadly. Here is part of that conversation.
What was your first reaction when you heard that Jaspal Atwal had been invited to this dinner in Delhi?
There are obviously concerns about security around the prime minister, around the delegation — and here is a man who is a convicted attempted assassin of a visiting Punjabi cabinet minister in British Columbia.
You have a trip being taken to actually remedy some of the problems with the relationship with India … and that just adds to the problems that the relationship had to begin with.
“Do you have no shame?” is the question you put to the prime minister.
Oh, absolutely. Do we have no shame? I mean, do we have no shame that we are taking, as part of our delegations, our receptions, the man who tried to kill an Indian cabinet minister? That’s what I meant.
And I said that the Khalistani sympathies … have seeped deep into the veins of our political system, and I maintain that.
Part of the reason the government of India and the Indians are mad is that Canadian politicians have never stopped — never ever stopped — going to these parades where these violent murderers like [Air India bombing mastermind] Talwinder Parmar are glorified as heroes.
One thing I carried from India — I was born in ’46, just before partition — is that India is never going to allow anyone to ever divide it again.
It’s never going to happen again and Canada should get with it and understand that if it harbours anyone who wants to dismember India, India would not look kindly on it.
And that’s not a threat. I mean, I’m just saying as an Indian and as a Canadian, it would look bad for an Indian-Canadian relationship.
And if you want to trade with one of the largest economies in the world — and a democracy, to boot — then we should be more sensitive to their concerns and we should stop cavorting with these separatists who want to dismember the country.
Mr. Trudeau said, and Mr. Harper has also said in the past, that people are entitled to have their views for Sikh separatism, but it’s a different thing when they’re part of a violent movement.
People are entitled to have their views. There’s no question.
It is when the governments of the country turn a blind eye, or they themselves — through their cabinet ministers, MPs, MLAs and others — associated with the … public activities of these groups.
That, I think, is when it becomes a problem. That has nothing to do with freedom of expression.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Brexit walls are closing in on Theresa May from two sides.
Time is running out in Brussels. But lack of support in Westminster has robbed May of the means to do Brexit her way.
Politics is like comedy in two ways: most of the people who think they would be good at it are wrong, and success depends on timing. With that in mind, the decisions by Theresa May last year to trigger article 50 and call a general election, in that order, look like a bad joke.
Instead of choosing a destination and organising a strategy to get there, the prime minister went on a clown-car diversion, jettisoning her parliamentary majority and incinerating her reputation as a dependable leader. She didn’t mean to do it, of course. She pursued what looked like political wisdom at the time. And it now hardly matters how the cards might have been played better. May’s most precious commodity was time, and she misspent it.
Yet time is still being frittered away. The government has postponed parliamentary debate on a bill to set the legislative framework for post-Brexit trade. It may not now come before the House of Commons for another two months. The reason is that MPs wanted to customise the law to enshrine contradictory Brexit preferences. The hard brigade want to expunge clauses that they see as gateways to retention of the EU’s customs union (or its restoration under another name). The soft squad would pass amendments to preserve such a union. Labour appears to be shifting towards that preference too.
These are matters that a cabinet sub-committee is supposed to have resolved at Chequers on Thursday. Ministers are reported to have reached a common position on “managed divergence” from EU rules. But the decision to kick a foundational piece of Brexit legislation into April on the eve of the meeting doesn’t suggest confidence that any consensus will be sturdy. Even if the cabinet has indeed found some elegant solution to its various differences, there is no guarantee that backbench MPs will go along with them.
Abandoning the customs union is uniquely tricky because, alongside the general economic problem of trying to avoid trade friction on borders, there is the specific political problem of Ireland, where border friction is another level of dangerous. In December the UK and the EU agreed that the frontier should stay invisible. They did not resolve how that can be done if May continued to insist that Brexit means leaving the single market and the customs union. And she does insist.
That December deal is now being codified into a withdrawal agreement, of which a draft is due to be published next Wednesday by the European commission. Since this text aims to one day be legally enforceable it will be much less generous with the Irish fudge. The window of vagueness in which May has so far pretended that her no-customs-union policy and her no-Irish-border policy are compatible might then close. That in turn means the demise of her pretence that Brexit can satisfy the European Research Group (ERG) caucus of hard-right Tories, and ex-remainer, moderate Conservatives at the same time.
The prime minister may also then realise that her reliance on the hardline Democratic Unionist party (DUP) for a majority in parliament and her desire for a “stable, orderly Brexit” pull in opposite directions. She can have the backing of the ERG-DUP, or she can have progress towards a collaborative, constructive partnership with the EU. She can’t have both. And this is all before next month’s European council summit when a decision is supposed to be made about the terms of transitional arrangements and – only maybe – the initiation of talks to settle the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Tick, tock.
The walls are closing in on May from two sides. The negotiating timetable in Brussels is tight and so is the parliamentary arithmetic in Westminster. May was desperate to avoid having to negotiate Brexit with MPs as well as the rest of the EU. When she became prime minister in the summer of 2016 she took the referendum result as her mandate. She claimed to speak and act on behalf of the “will of the people”.
Then, in the spring of 2017, she thought she saw a chance to convert that rhetorical mandate into legislative power. By sweeping up a vast majority, crushing Labour, the Tory leader would be able to enact whatever Brexit she saw fit. But the election she called had the opposite effect. Instead of being amplified and channelled through the voice of the prime minister, the people’s Brexit instructions came out diffused and distorted.
May’s legacy as prime minister will be recorded as the collision of those two dramatic electoral events: the one that put her in charge of Brexit and the one that robbed her of the means to do it her way. The Eurosceptic ultras brandish the 2016 result – the single word “leave” – as licence to demand whatever they want. But parliament, elected a year later, has the authority to define Brexit in other, more moderate ways. In popular cultural terms, the referendum was the bigger deal. In constitutional terms, parliament is paramount. The contest between them is nearing its endgame and May looks more like a bystander than a player.
• Rafael Behr is a Guardian columnist
In May 1963 a white police officer in Birmingham, Alabama, tried to scare some black children as they went to protest against segregation. As fellow policemen turned hoses and dogs on black youngsters nearby, the kids made it plain they knew what they were doing and continued marching towards the demonstrations. A reporter asked one of them her age. “Six,” she said, as she climbed into the paddy wagon.
Events in Birmingham proved a crucial turning point in the civil rights era. Before protests started, only 4% of Americans regarded the struggle for racial equality as the country’s most pressing issue; after Birmingham, it was more than half.
And young people were crucial to its success. That was no accident. Adult breadwinners had too much to lose, and the campaign was faltering, so Martin Luther King’s organisation trained young people to carry the mantle. Soon they were filling the city’s prison cells. “There were 12 people in [my] jail cell,” Dennis Mallory, who was a teenager in town at the time, told me. “And 11 were from my school.”
The political courage and leadership of the young people in Florida who took on the gun lobby this week stands in the storied, inspiring tradition of youth activism in America and beyond. Whether it was Paris, Mexico or Brazil in 1968, Soweto in 1976, the intifada of the late 80s, Seattle in the 90s, the Prague spring of 1968 or the Arab spring of 2011, the young have often led resistance against injustice or for progressive change – and sometimes both.
In Florida the familiar cycle of carnage, thoughts, prayers, rage and stasis has been broken by an impassioned and uncompromising demand for gun control triggered by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, where 17 people were shot dead last week. There have been die-ins outside the White House and school walkouts around the country: they have grilled (and, frankly, toasted) their Republican senator and a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association (NRA), and lobbied the state legislature.
When liberals see young people challenging authority in this way, they can start to wax romantic. Youth can be fetishised as though it holds intrinsically radical properties. It doesn’t. It is not an abstract identity. Youth interacts with class, race, gender, nationality, region and a range of other factors in different ways at different times. During the 1926 general strike in Britain, students were used as scab labour. Young people, aged 18 to 24, voted for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and 1983, and Ronald Reagan in 1984. The under-35s in India went for the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi. Young white people backed Donald Trump.
And while the young can at times make an impact on the streets, they are among the least likely to vote, – if indeed they are even eligible to vote – and cannot withdraw their labour to any devastating effect. There is a limit to what they can achieve alone. In the days after the shooting, Emma González, 17, who was at the school when the shooting happened, emerged as an impressive, articulate champion for gun control, saying: “We are going to be the last mass shooting.” There have been four since their school attack, and at the rate things are going this year the United States is due another school shooting before the end of the month.
But at a moment like this, far more problematic than overstating the impact of young people’s protest is underestimating it. If there is one unifying element in the nature of youth and student protest over the past 50 years, it has been the likelihood of it finding its greatest potency precisely when established political structures have shown themselves to be obsolete – structures young people feel neither beholden to nor indebted to.
Thanks to big money, gerrymandering and spinelessness, each mass shooting is received in a mood of learned hopelessness
There are few better illustrations of this than guns in the US. A consistent majority favours stricter gun laws, and support for background checks is almost unanimous. Yet thanks to a combination of big money, gerrymandering and political spinelessness, each mass shooting is received in a mood of learned hopelessness. Citing Sandy Hook, people understandably insist that if nothing changed when the kids were younger, and the president cried and called for action, then nothing ever will change.
When reporting for my book about all the children and teens shot dead in one random day in America, I asked each family an open-ended question: what did they think had made the tragedy possible? Not one mentioned guns. When I asked the more leading question, of what they thought about guns, most had an opinion: they were too easily accessible. After a while, I concluded that they looked on gun deaths as being a bit like traffic fatalities. If your child was run over by a car, you might call for a traffic light, speed bump or lower speed limit – and no one would claim that was unconstitutional. But you wouldn’t call for an end to traffic. Who could imagine a world without traffic? To these parents, that would be as bizarre as a world without guns.
But González was 12 when Sandy Hook happened. She and her fellow students have not learned to be hopeless. Nobody can tell them to lobby through the proper channels, because there are no working channels. So they have gone for the source. The tone of urgency, rage, hope and mocking disbelief in their resistance is one of the things that has been missing from this debate. America’s rate of gun death – seven children and teens a day, as well as around 80 adults – is an obscenity the nation has become accustomed to.
It is not just the fact of their opposition but the tone that is thrilling. “Calling BS” on the political class and the NRA, facing down senators and lobbyists, they have acted independently of both political parties and a mostly white, middle-aged, suburban-led gun control movement that has little connection with the communities most acutely affected by gun violence.
This is fantastic, as far as it goes, but on its own it doesn’t go far enough. History has shown that young people and students have the ability to expose a crisis and challenge it, but rarely defeat or solve it unilaterally. They are more likely to be the spark for the broader struggles than the flame itself. The systemic threat youth and students pose is one of contagion – that their energy and commitment will infect others with more leverage, who may join them.
Of the victory against segregation in Birmingham, the historian Taylor Branch wrote: “Never before was a country transformed, arguably redeemed, by the active moral witness of schoolchildren.” That may have been the first time. Let’s hope it is not the last.
• Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist and the author of Another Day in the Death of America