Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Report: British government split on EU workers

  • Hammond (r), the former British foreign minister and now treasury chief is keen to protect the City of London's access to the single market (Photo: council of European Union)

The British treasury is willing to let EU migrants keep coming to the UK in return for single market access, but other ministries want to take a hard line, British newspaper The Sunday Times has reported.

“There’s a tussle going on here. The chief culprit is the chancellor [Philip Hammond]. He has taken the position that there are no red lines, that you’ve got to stay part of the market and it doesn’t matter what you give way on,” a source from Britain’s ruling Conservative party was quoted as saying on Sunday (28 August).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Gabriel (l): "We need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things ... while taking no responsibility" (Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann)

Another source, said to be close to Hammond, told the newspaper: “A key priority is going to be financial services for us. For the Germans, the automotive industry is going to be key.”

The two ministers appointed to plan the future Brexit negotiations, David Davis and Liam Fox, have, like prime minister Theresa May, indicated that neither they nor the British public would be willing to accept EU free movement after the Brexit referendum, which was dominated by anti-immigrant feeling.

But The Sunday Times said that Hammond’s treasury is trying to take control of the Brexit process due to its officials’ deeper experience on economic issues.

The feeling inside the British civil service is more pro-European than in the Tory party, according to Gus O’Donnell, the UK’s former top official, who said last week that Britain might be able to remain as a “loosely aligned” member of a reformed European Union despite the referendum.

But if May listens to her civil servants, she risks a political rebellion, some of her MPs have warned.

“She’s got to elaborate on what she means by ‘Brexit means Brexit’. We need some red meat. The public want it too”, Andrew Bridgen, a Tory MP, said at the weekend.

The British political tussles also include one on whether to first consult parliament before triggering the so-called article 50 procedure to exit the EU.

Two senior Labour MPs, Barry Gardiner and Owen Smith, over the weekend urged May to hold a vote, risking a potential crisis if a majority of MPs voted to stay in the EU.

“She’s [May] looked at the numbers and she knows she might not win a vote in parliament”, Smith said. If she did not hold a vote, she would “diminish parliament and assume the arrogant powers of a Tudor monarch”, Gardiner said.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that May has asked her ministers to submit their Brexit ideas at a meeting in her official retreat, Chequers, on Wednesday, amid expectations that she will invoke article 50 early next year.

Talks on future UK-EU relations are also speeding up on the mainland ahead of an extraordinary summit of 27 EU leaders without the UK in Bratislava in mid-September.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s left-wing deputy chancellor, who is to compete for office with the centre-right chancellor Angela Merkel in next year’s elections, said on Sunday that the EU would go “down the drain” if the UK got exceedingly generous terms.

“If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble, so now we need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, related to Europe while taking no responsibility,” he said.

A senior official from a western European country told The Sunday Times that Merkel’s talks with 15 EU leaders last week came to a similar conclusion.

“Britain will have to leave the single market, then negotiate a trade deal with additional agreements on specific issues. Not accepting freedom of movement means losing access to the single market. Limited acceptance of the freedom of movement means limited access. It is up to the British to choose”, the official said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

UK cannot have and eat EU cake

The UK’s two main demands: migration control and single market access are irreconcilable. Something will have to give.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us