Brexit ne­go­tia­tors hail progress

May de­fends free mar­kets

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRUS­SELS, Sept 28, (Agen­cies): Britain and the EU have taken “de­ci­sive steps for­ward’ in Brexit talks af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s speech last week but more work needs to be done, ne­go­tia­tors said Thursday.

Speak­ing af­ter the fourth round of talks in Brus­sels, EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier and his Bri­tish coun­ter­part David Davis said they had achieved more clar­ity on the de­tails of May’s speech in Florence.

But Barnier warned that they were “not there yet”, with time run­ning out to achieve suf­fi­cient progress to get EU lead­ers to agree to un­lock dis­cus­sions on a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship af­ter Britain leaves in March 2019.

“Thanks to the con­struc­tive and de­ter­mined man­ner in which both sides have con­ducted these ne­go­ti­a­tions I be­lieve we are mak­ing de­ci­sive steps for­ward,” Davis told a news con­fer­ence along­side Barnier at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s head­quar­ters.

“Af­ter four rounds when I look across the full range of is­sues to do with our with­drawal from the EU I’m clear we have made con­sid­er­able progress on the is­sues that mat­ter,” added Davis.

The EU in­sists on mak­ing suf­fi­cient progress on three key di­vorce is­sues: Britain’s exit bill, the fate of North­ern Ire­land, and the rights of three mil­lion EU cit­i­zens liv­ing in Britain af­ter its de­par­ture from the bloc.

May’s Florence speech of­fered key con­ces­sions as well as propos­ing a tran­si­tion pe­riod of around two years af­ter Brexit to al­low busi­nesses to ad­just to the new sit­u­a­tion.

“The prime min­is­ter’s speech in Florence has cre­ated a new dy­namic in our ne­go­ti­a­tions and we have felt this dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions this week,” Barnier said.

Cre­ate

“We man­aged to cre­ate clar­ity on some points, on oth­ers how­ever more work re­mains to be done, and we are not there yet.”

Barnier in­sisted that the tran­si­tion should be dis­cussed in the sec­ond phase of dis­cus­sions, how­ever.

Separately, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment said in a draft res­o­lu­tion to be voted on next week that EU lead­ers should post­pone their de­ci­sion on progress un­til af­ter their Oc­to­ber sum­mit.

The res­o­lu­tion said the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment “is of the opin­ion that in the fourth round of ne­go­ti­a­tions suf­fi­cient progress has not yet been made on cit­i­zens’ rights, Ire­land and the North­ern Ire­land, and the set­tle­ment of the United King­dom’s fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions.”

The par­lia­ment “calls on the Euro­pean Coun­cil, un­less there is ma­jor break­through in line with this res­o­lu­tion in all three ar­eas dur­ing the fifth ne­go­ti­a­tion round, to de­cide at its Oc­to­ber meet­ing to post­pone its as­sess­ment on whether suf­fi­cient progress has been made”.

MEPs will have the fi­nal say on any deal for Britain’s de­par­ture from the EU in 2019.

Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, who rep­re­sents the EU mem­ber states, said af­ter meet­ing May in Lon­don on Tues­day that there was “no suf­fi­cient progress” so far.

Mean­while, May on Thursday de­fended free mar­kets as the proper way to run an econ­omy, a day af­ter em­bold­ened op­po­si­tion leader Jeremy Cor­byn said his left-wing ideas now rep­re­sented the po­lit­i­cal main­stream.

May, whose Con­ser­va­tive Party is run­ning neck and neck with Cor­byn’s Labour Party in opin­ion polls, said prop­erly reg­u­lated mar­kets were essen­tial to boost liv­ing stan­dards, and she stuck to her gov­ern­ment’s plans to cut debt with­out rais­ing taxes sharply.

“A free mar­ket econ­omy ... is un­ques­tion­ably the best, and in­deed the only sus­tain­able means of in­creas­ing the liv­ing stan­dards of ev­ery­one,” May told a con­fer­ence hosted by the Bank of Eng­land (BoE).

Poli­cies

May has strug­gled to per­suade vot­ers that the eco­nomic poli­cies pur­sued by Bri­tish gov­ern­ments since the 1980s are still the best an­swer to the coun­try’s prob­lems. She lost the Con­ser­va­tives’ par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity in an elec­tion in June.

Liv­ing stan­dards have fallen since May’s Con­ser­va­tives came to power in 2010, due to years of mea­gre wage growth and bouts of high in­fla­tion — in­clud­ing a slow­down caused by last year’s vote to leave the Euro­pean Union.

BoE Gov­er­nor Mark Car­ney, speak­ing at the same event, told May that the cen­tral bank’s ul­tra-low in­ter­est rates and other stim­u­lus pro­grammes would be un­able to off­set the likely hit to the econ­omy from Brexit.

“The big­gest de­ter­mi­nants of the UK’s medium-term pros­per­ity will be the coun­try’s new re­la­tion­ship with the EU and the re­forms it catal­y­ses,” he said, re­peat­ing com­ments he has made pre­vi­ously on Brexit.

“Most of the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments are real in na­ture and there­fore not in the gift of cen­tral bankers.”

Credit rat­ings agency Moody’s down­graded its as­sess­ment of Britain’s abil­ity to ser­vice its debts last Fri­day due to con­cerns that Brexit would hurt growth and that the gov­ern­ment was find­ing it harder to keep spend­ing un­der con­trol.

Separately on Thursday, May crit­i­cised US plane­maker Boe­ing, warn­ing that its be­hav­iour in a trade dis­pute which threat­ens thou­sands of Bri­tish jobs was un­der­min­ing its com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ship with Britain.

In re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Britain’s left-wing op­po­si­tion leader said Wed­nes­day that the po­lit­i­cal cen­ter ground has shifted and his so­cial­ist ideas are “now the po­lit­i­cal main­stream.”

Wrap­ping up the Labour Party’s an­nual con­fer­ence, Jeremy Cor­byn said the party es­poused “a new com­mon sense about the di­rec­tion our coun­try should take,” and had be­come Britain’s gov­ern­ment-in-wait­ing as the Con­ser­va­tives were con­sumed by in­fight­ing.

Elec­tion

Labour stunned pun­dits and poll­sters in June’s snap elec­tion by re­duc­ing May’s Con­ser­va­tives to a mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tion. The party ran on poli­cies widely de­rided as ex­pen­sive and old-fash­ioned, such as na­tion­al­iz­ing rail­ways and pub­lic utilities and scrap­ping univer­sity fees.

But they struck a chord with many vot­ers weary af­ter seven years of spend­ing cuts by the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment. Al­though Labour lost the elec­tion, it gained sev­eral dozen par­lia­men­tary seats, and its mem­ber­ship has grown to al­most 600,000 since Cor­byn was elected leader in 2015.

Many Labour law­mak­ers still worry that Cor­byn’s so­cial­ism is a turn-off to cen­trist vot­ers. But, to a bois­ter­ous re­cep­tion from del­e­gates, the leader ar­gued that “we are now the po­lit­i­cal main­stream.”

“To­day’s cen­ter ground is cer­tainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Cor­byn said. “A new con­sen­sus is emerg­ing from the great eco­nomic crash and the years of aus­ter­ity, when peo­ple started to find po­lit­i­cal voice for their hopes for some­thing dif­fer­ent and bet­ter.”

Labour has lost three suc­ces­sive elec­tions since 2010, but its four-day con­fer­ence in the sea­side city of Brighton was the most op­ti­mistic in years.

Cor­byn made eye-catch­ing prom­ises in­clud­ing a pay raise for pub­lic ser­vants and con­straints on pri­vate land­lords and de­vel­op­ers that he said had con­trib­uted to “so­cial cleans­ing” in Lon­don.

Cor­byn cited June’s fire at pub­lic hous­ing block Gren­fell Tower, which killed some 80 peo­ple, as “a damn­ing in­dict­ment of a whole out­look ... which has con­tempt for work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties.”

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