In the cut and thrust of the political posturing surrounding the upcoming Brexit negotiations, each side is trying to position its arguments as the most credible. There is an awful lot of repetition, and the political landscape could change dramatically between now and the negotiations starting properly in 2017, making some of this posturing redundant. Whilst Theresa May has to be seen to be advocating that Brexit will be positive, with her now trademark phrase "Brexit means Brexit, and we're going to make a success of it", to maintain control of her own political party, but also the Brexit supporting voters and media, from the other perspective, people within the European Political Institutions, such as Donald Tusk are trying to be seen to be standing up for the European Union and not allowing Britain to get too easy a deal. Depending on whether there are significant economic or political crises within Europe will greatly impact on the negotiating positions. Whether it will result in UK and European politicians working together to compromise and find solutions or be driven apart, will be the ultimate test of how successful Brexit will be for the UK and the EU.
- There has been significant push back this week to the Prime Minister's optimism about Brexit during Conservative Party Conference from both within the UK and in Europe. The big debate within UK politics recently has been whether we should aim for a "hard Brexit" or a "soft Brexit". Formerly powerful politicians such as Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and George Osborne have all been arguing for this, as have many within the Europhile wing of the Conservative Party. A significant amount of cold water however has been poured on this idea by European politicians. President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel have separately insisted that access to the single market will be limited if Britain does not allow freedom of movement. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has said that it will be "Hard Brexit or No Brexit", adding that the EU would not compromised on its insistence that freedom of movement will be a condition ofr Britain's access to the single market.
- The £ has continued to fall against the $ and the € this week upon growing sentiment that the UK will end up with a hard Brexit. This has led to a very mixed picture with advocates of a weaker £ and a stronger £ arguing about which is better for the UK economy. The most bizarre example of this was a high profile argument in the media between Tesco, a large UK grocery store, and Unilever who make many food and household products who wanted to put their prices up by 10% for products such as Marmite. Whilst Unilever have ultimately backed down, this goes to show that there will be significant upward pressures on prices in the UK on imported goods which has translated into inflation growing this month to 1% for September, up from 0.6% in August. This is still below the Bank of England's inflation target of 2%, but if that trend continues, it won't be long before inflationary forces are really felt in the pockets of British households.
- The other side to the devaluation of the £ issue, is the impact it is having on EU countries and companies that are large exporters to the UK. Ireland's finance minister, Michael Noon has launched a Getting Ireland Brexit Ready programme including special measures that will protect the Irish economy if negatively affected by Brexit. A €136Million loan fund has been set up to help Irish farmers who have been damaged by the decline in the value of their exports to the UK. If the £ settles at this level against the € it will have a dramatic effect on the economics of UK-EU trade, and could make any tariffs imposed if free trade can't be agreed relatively insignificant to UK exporters, but cumulative to EU exporters.
- The political challenges of Brexit in the UK continue this week with pressure growing on the Government to hold a debate and vote on the triggering of Article 50. Whilst the High Court challenge over whether the Government has the constitutional power to trigger Article 50 without Parliament's approval, and is currently underway, is likely to be unsuccessful, there may be strong enough opinion within Conservative MPs in Parliament from both Brexit and Remain supporters to force the Government into holding that vote. The newly appointed Shadow Brexit Minister, Sir Keir Starmer MP has finally managed to generate some successful scrutiny of Brexit from within the Opposition, by issuing 170 questions about the UK's negotiating position. Whilst the Government is clearly not going to answer many, if any, of these questions, in order not to weaken their negotiating position, they do consist of some interesting and awkward questions and points that the Opposition can build on over the coming months.
- Finally, the question of whether the NHS will be getting an extra £350Million a week, whilst already widely disbelieved by many, has been confirmed that in the short term at least, the NHS won't be getting any additional funds further to those announced in last year's Autumn statement. At a time of significant demand and strain on the NHS, this will grow into very important issue for UK politics over the coming months, with an interesting connection to Brexit due to the arguably irresponsible claims/promises of the Brexit side during the referendum campaign.
Written by RPP Head of London Office, Andrew Brown
EU Commission’s TF 50 team is taking shape
The Commission team which is meant to be the “Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union (TF 50), is taking shape.
Recently the Commission has appointed German Commission official Sabine Weyand, who is currently serving as Deputy Director General in the Commission’s Trade department, as Barnier’s deputy for the Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom. Weyand works currently on WTO matters and also on the TTIP file. Before that, she was in charge of policy co-ordination in the Secretariat of the Commission, she studied in Cambridge in the 1980s.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker nominated Michel Barnier as head negotiator last July. He had served as the Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market and Services in the past and his tenure included inter alia limits on banker’s bonuses and setting up a system for failing banks.
Barnier’s Article 50 task force “will be in charge of preparing and conducting the negotiations with the United Kingdom, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the European Union”, according to the Commission. This body will coordinate all legal, operational, strategic and financial issues around the tasks. In addition to the appointment of Sabine Weyand, Barnier has appointed Stephanie Riso as his principal adviser and Georg Riekeles as a special adviser for interinstitutional relations.
Prior to that appointment, Riso has worked as Head of Unit in the Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) BUDG (Budget) which is responsible for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) and for the preparation of the mid-term revision of the current 2014-2020 MFF, as well as for the next Commission proposals for the next MFF. Before that, she was Head of Unit for Fiscal Policies and Surveillance in DG ECFIN and she has also served as Deputy Head of Cabinet (private office) for Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn. Georg Riekeles has worked as an adviser for security and defence at the European Political Strategy Centre of the European Commission and was previously a member of the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot who was in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security.
In addition to the appointments mentioned above, Francois Arbault, who is currently heading the Public Procurement Strategy unit within the Directorate-General Internal Market, has also been nominated as one of the TF 50 team members. He has worked in the Cabinets of Michel Barnier, where he was in charge of intellectual property issues and earlier on, in the Barrot Cabinet, where he working on Internal Market and competition issues.
We have also heard that Heike Buss, who is currently working as a Senior Expert in charge of External Relations Policy regarding the International Dimension of Internal Policies (including G7 and G20 matters) in the Secretariat General of the Commission, as one of the top advisers.
The Commission has also emphasised that, “in line with the principle of no negotiation without notification, the task of the Chief Negotiator in the coming months will be to prepare the ground internally. Once the Article process is triggered, he will then establish the necessary formal contacts with his counterparts in the UK”
It is expected that Michel Barnier’s team might comprise in the end up to 40 or even 50 people, once the ball of the negotiations is rolling, and the Commission reiterated that there “will be no talks until London triggers Article 50 of the EU Treaty”, starting a two-year clock for departure. As Prime Minister May has stated, this might happen next spring.
Currently Michel Barnier had started to do a round of the EU capitals in order to check the mood and to do some fact finding as to the Brexit “on the ground”.
Written by RPP Senior Director Advocacy and Policy, Thomas Krings
Theresa May’s New Brexit Committee
One key change by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been to move back to a cabinet style of Government complete with cabinet committees, as opposed to a more advisor led "Sofa Government" of Blair. This was arguably continued by Brown and then Cameron, although a lot of decision making under the coalition went through the "Quad" of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander.
This week we have found out the members of Theresa May’s Brexit committee, which has been meeting since the end of July.
It is made up 12 permanent cabinet ministers who are assisting Theresa May with the upcoming EU negotiations. The Prime Minister has placed an equal number of Leave and Remain campaigners in the Brexit committee. Whilst this is a good way of ensuring that both sides of the referendum campaign feel represented, it has resulted in ministers whose departments are not fundamental to the Brexit negotiations being included. For example, Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary and Piri Patel, International Development Secretary, who were both established voices in the Vote Leave campaign are members of the committee, yet Jeremy Wright QC, the Attorney General is not.
The Prime Minister has made a slightly controversial move in not giving the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland permanent positions on the committee, instead they will be included when requested. Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain in the EU, and politicians and members of the public have voiced concerns that their country will be worse off out of the EU.
We expect the discussions around that table are certainly going to be interesting over the next few years. The members of the committee are listed below:
- Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary
- David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
- Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade
- Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport
- Angela Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
- Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development
- Theresa May, Prime Minister
- Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Amber Rudd, Home Secretary
- Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
- Damian Green, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
- Patrick Mcloughlin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster & Conservative Party Chairman
Attending “as required”
- David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland (Remain)
- Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales (Remain)
- James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Remain)
Written by RPP Head of London Office, Andrew Brown & RPP Policy Researcher, Lucy Kerr
RPP’s Brexit taskforce
Brexit is a great challenge and opportunity for industry, research and non-profit organizations in the UK and beyond. RPP has put together a taskforce of senior advisors to support our clients in understanding the impact of Brexit on their organization and using Brexit as an opportunity to accelerate their advocacy work. The team’s professional experience reflects the advocacy needs posed by Brexit – established expertise and in-depth insights into the UK and EU political system and its decision-making. The RPP taskforce is supported by all RPP consultants and staff members, wherever specific issue-based expertise is necessary.
Our Brexit offering is bespoke to our clients and their different requirements, however we have identified three key pillars to our Brexit services.
Monitoring: With our main office in Brussels and offices in London and other European capitals, our specialised staff are a common sight in the corridors of the institutions, the halls of Westminster and in other Parliaments. In addition to our weekly newsletter we can provide clients with fast tailored information specific to your needs.
Anaylsis: Tailored to your needs, our experienced healthcare team can work with you to assess what Brexit could mean for your organisation and analyse what steps you may need to take.
Advocacy: With a strong track record of translating the needs of the Life Sciences Sector into policy action, RPP Group can work with you to ensure you have a presence in London, Brussels and beyond, and ensure your voice is heard and interests represented.
- Andrew Brown, Head of London Office. Andrew has worked in public affairs since 2010, where his worked has focused solely on the healthcare sector. Previously he studied Medicine at Imperial College London before completing an MSc in International Health Management at Imperial’s Business School. Andrew is also a Councillor in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, where he is the Opposition Spokesman for Health & Adult Social Care.
- Thomas Krings, Senior Director Advocacy and Policy. A veteran of the EU institutional and political scene, Thomas is in charge of RPP’s institutional contacts in Brussels and beyond. Before joining RPP, Thomas was Deputy Secretary-General of the ALDE Group, the EU Liberal and Democratic political group in the European Parliament. He also served as a member of the cabinet (private office) of former EU Commission Vice President Olli Rehn and held a number of senior positions in industry.
- Andrew Johnson, Managing Director. Andrew is a Brussels veteran with 20 years of experience in EU law and public affairs. After several years’ practice at the Bar, he has managed the public affairs practices of many leading public affairs agencies and led many high-profile campaigns. A Management Committee member of EPACA (the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association) since 2007, Andrew teaches EU public affairs at the Université Paris-Dauphine.
- Charles Waller, Director RPP Healthcare. Based in Brussels & the UK since the mid-1980s, Charles has worked in regulatory health policy for more than fifteen years and in public policy throughout his career. Recently his work has focussed on EC law, liaison with patient & clinician representative groups and international harmonisation. Prior to his current position he was Vice President, Europe of the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association and previously worked in New York, San Francisco and London in crisis management and investor relations.
- Mark Walker, Director Advocacy and Policy UK. Mark previously has over 6 years’ experience in the Westminster and European Parliaments working for senior MPs and MEPs. Before that he worked for a leading UK policy think tank, Policy Exchange. He currently focuses on working in the areas of longer-term diseases, ophthalmology and blood safety and has extensive experience managing projects in both the UK and in Brussels.
If you want to contact the members of our Brexit team, please send an email to email@example.com.
Written by RPP Head of London Office, Andrew Brown & RPP Group Manager of Corporate Office, Daniel Fischer