Boris Johnson and European Commission agree on Withdrawal Agreement

…but the Democratic Unionist Party has refused to support it.

From Missy:

Boris Johnson and the European Commission have agreed a Withdrawal Agreement, it now has to be approved by the European Council tomorrow, and then the UK Parliament. The Government have called a Saturday sitting to debate and pass the Withdrawal Agreement, however, reports suggest that the opposition will vote against this sitting, despite going to court to ensure that the prorogation was overruled in order to debate Brexit (which they haven’t done at all).

I haven’t had a chance to read into the details of the deal, but my understanding is that the backstop has been removed and changed to an alternative arrangement keeping Northern Ireland in the Single Market, but not the Customs Union, with the biggest change being that there is reportedly a 4 year time limit which can be extended with permission of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It will be interesting to see what the new Agreement says, and how it compares with May’s deal.

Gezza: “Aljaz tv reporter says the DUP’s not happy with it?”

Missy:

No-one seems to be apparently. DUP want WTO Brexit so they won’t be happy with anything. However, it is expected the DUP are playing politics but will come around to voting for it.

Apparently Jean Claude Juncker has said no more extensions which nullifies the Benn Act if he is speaking for the EU. The Government motion for Saturday is apparently that a no in this means no deal, this is it for the UK.

Corbyn is also in a difficult position, he is reportedly doing a three line whip to vote against the deal, has said he won’t agree to a General Election until there is an extension, and he wants a second referendum before a General Election on the deal.

On point 1: he heavily criticised Conservatives for removing the whip from those that voted against the Government so either looks weak or a hypocrite.

On point 2: he has not said what he will do if the EU refuse an extension, just continually that he will agree an election when the extension has been agreed to.

On Point 3: he has given mixed messages regarding a second referendum. He is certainly under pressure to have one from his party, and his sudden support seems to be half hearted and in the view that Boris would lose in a referendum.

This seems to be the end of Corbyn, he has not held a consistent or stable position on Brexit for three years, and he gambled that Boris would not get a deal and have to extend and would subsequently be blamed for the delay. It is a gamble that has not paid off.

BBC: New Brexit deal agreed but DUP refuses support

In a statement, the Democratic Unionist Party, which the government relies on for support in key votes, said: “These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.”

EU leaders agree to UK Brexit proposal

RNZ: UK’s Brexit deal agreed by EU leaders

EU leaders have approved an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and future relations – insisting it is the “best and only deal possible”.

After 20 months of negotiations, the 27 leaders gave the deal their blessing after less than an hour’s discussion.

hey said the deal – which needs to be approved by the UK Parliament – paved the way for an “orderly withdrawal”.

Theresa May said the deal “delivered for the British people” and set the UK “on course for a prosperous future”.

Speaking in Brussels, she urged both Leave and Remain voters to unite behind the agreement, insisting the British public “do not want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit”.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

The EU officially endorsed the terms of the UK’s withdrawal during a short meeting, bringing to an end negotiations which began in March 2017.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said anyone in Britain who thought the bloc might offer improved terms if MPs rejected the deal would be “disappointed.

The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the deal on 12 December, but its approval is far from guaranteed.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the DUP and many Conservatives MPs are set to vote against.

Mrs May has appealed to the British public to get behind the agreement – saying that although it involved compromises, it was a “good deal that unlocks a bright future for the UK”.

At a news conference in Brussels, she said the agreement would:

  • end freedom of movement “in full and once and for all”
  • protect the constitutional integrity of the UK, and
  • ensure a return to “laws being made in our country by democratically elected politicians interpreted and enforced by British courts”.

The agreement, she added, would not remove Gibraltar from the “UK family” – a reference to a last-minute wrangle with Spain over the territory.

The EU leaders have approved the two key Brexit documents:

  • The EU withdrawal agreement: a 599-page, legally binding document setting out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. It covers the UK’s £39bn “divorce bill”, citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland “backstop” – a way to keep the Irish border open, if trade talks stall
  • The political declaration, which sets out what the UK and EU’s relationship may be like after Brexit – outlining how things like UK-EU trade and security will work

There was no formal vote on Sunday, with the EU proceeding by consensus.

NZ wants post-Brexit trade deal

On his visit to Europe Prime Minister Bill English has met with his UK counterpart and says that New Zealand will seek a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible ‘after Brexit’ (presumably after the UK has severed it’s ties with the European Union). And the UK is willing as soon as it is able to.

English is also working towards an EU trade deal.

RNZ: NZ to pursue post-Brexit trade deal

Britain is not able to sign trade deals with third countries while it remains a member of the European Union, but the British government has said it is keen to start preparatory work so agreements can be reached quickly after it leaves.

Mr English met with Mrs May in London overnight.

“We are ready to negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with the UK when it is in a position to do so,” Mr English said at a news conference.

“We already have a strong and diversified trading relationship with the UK and a free trade agreement will build on that.”

English also met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and has talked about a trade deal there.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said talks with New Zealand could be wrapped up far more quickly than is normal, perhaps in just two to three years.

At a separate briefing with reporters later on Friday, Mr English said he expected the New Zealand-EU deal to be completed before a New Zealand-Britain agreement.

That’s because there’s uncertainty about when the UK will exit the EU and how that will work out in Britain.

“It is difficult to formulate what kind of agreement we would have until it is clear what position the UK is in at the end of Brexit,” he said.

Mrs May said that while Britain remained in the EU, it would work to support an EU-New Zealand trade deal, while also making preparations for a future “bold new” bilateral agreement.

The formal process to leave the EU is scheduled to begin at the end of March but not much detail is known yet.

As Missy posted “Theresa May is expected to give a speech to outline the plan for Brexit in the next week or so”.

Trade negotiations with Europe

Following on from the yet to be ratified Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries comprising 40% of the world economy, trade attention has turned to Europe.

Stuff reports New Zealand and Europe inch towards free trade negotiations.

A free trade agreement (FTA) with one of the world’s largest trading blocs is a small step closer, with New Zealand and Europe to lay the groundwork for negotiations “as soon as possible”.

In a joint statement released late on Thursday night (NZ time), Prime Minister John Key, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council President Donald Tusk agreed to start discussions on how to negotiate a “deep and comprehensive high-quality” trade deal.

“We believe that a FTA will support sustainable growth and investment, opening up new trade and business opportunities and generating new employment for our peoples,” the joint statement read.

In mid-October the EU Commission released its new trade and investment strategy, with New Zealand singled out as a country where it wanted to “open the door to new negotiations” for a free trade deal.

In a statement, Key said there was desire on both sides to progress a deal.

As with the TPPA this isn’t likely to be quick or simple, or without opposition.

Striking a deal may not be easy, with greater access for New Zealand’s primary products likely to be opposed by Europe’s powerful farming lobby.

When the European Commission announced its trade strategy it warned that a deal  with New Zealand would need to take into account the EU’s “agricultural sensitivities”.

‘Sensitivities’ always play a part in trade negotiations.

But it’s an important mission for New Zealand.

I hope that Labour bans their bottom line bull and gets back to cross party efforts to improve our trading terms with Europe.