The Withdrawal Agreement Bill looks set to pass its final hurdle in the House of Commons this afternoon, edging the UK even closer towards officially leaving the EU on January 31. After this date the Government will be locked in intense talks with Brussels, as the two sides attempt to thrash out an amicable trade deal. With Boris Johnson imposing a strict deadline of December 31 for an agreement to be reached, having insisted the transition period will not be extended beyond this date, the EU are said to be nervous – particularly over the issue of fishing rights.
George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times, has predicted that fishing rights will be a huge sticking point in the trade talks.
He cites the Prime Minister’s assertion that Britain will be “maintaining control of UK fishing waters” after it leaves the EU.
But Politico report that the EU are concerned the UK will hold them over a barrel when it comes to fishing.
An EU diplomat told the political news site: “There are areas where the EU has more leverage, like market access, and others like fisheries where the UK has more leverage, so that would mean that they put us over the barrel on fish and we do the same with them on trade.”
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Boris Johnson is set to hold the EU ‘over a barrel’ on fishing rights
Michel Barnier attends a conference on Brexit in Sweden today
1.32pm update: Lords warned not to derail Brexit Bill
Peers have been told to listen to the will of the country and back legislation paving the way for the UK to leave the European Union on January 31.
The Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill is expected to clear the Commons this afternoon, sending the legislation to the House of Lords – where there is no Government majority.
Downing Street urged the unelected House to take heed of the December general election result which delivered Mr Johnson’s 80-seat Commons majority.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The country did deliver a very clear message that they want Brexit to be resolved.”
He added the Government wants the legislation “to complete its passage through both houses as smoothly as possible”.
1.08pm update: Barnier warns no deal looming ‘if we fail’ to agree deal
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has issued a fresh warning about the possibility of a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020, if a trade deal cannot be done.
He told a meeting in Sweden that Boris Johnson had told him and the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “very clearly that he does not want an extension”.
When discussing future trade talks, Mr Barnier said: “If we fail, the transition period will end on 1 January, 2021 without any arrangements for a new future relationship in place.
“This would not affect the issues covered in the Withdrawal Agreement: the financial settlement, and, thankfully, the deal we have reached on the island of Ireland and on citizens would still stand.
“But it would mean the return of tariffs and quotas: a total anachronism for interconnected economies like ours. Of course, this is not what the EU wants.”
12.46pm update: Scottish Greens call for Erasmus+ protection after Brexit
The Scottish Greens have urged the Scottish Government to protect the Erasmus+ project in Scotland, after Westminster voted to scrap the scheme as part of Brexit legislation.
The scheme, which allows UK students to study across Europe must be protected in Scotland, is in large part not dependent on EU membership and many non-EU states from across the world participate.
However, MPs rejected an amendment to protect Erasmus+ while waving through Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit deal in a vote on Wednesday.
Michel Barnier has warned a no deal Brexit is looming
12.03pm update: MPs to get 122 days ‘off’ from Parliament in 2020 – amounting to over 17 weeks
MPs will get 122 days “off” from Parliament for the coming year, Huffposts’s Paul Waugh reports.
The total number of days off amounts to 17 and a half weeks.
The time off includes when Parliament is in recess for the Easter and summer holidays.
11.32am update: PM says passing Brexit legislation would be a ‘significant step’
Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said: “Passing Brexit legislation today would be a significant positive step.”
11.14am update: Barry Gardiner confident he would deliver a Labour Government
Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who has not yet decided if he will run for the Labour leadership, has said he would stand the “best chance” at winning a general election.
He told the BBC: “If I do decide to stand it will be because I believe I have the best chance of winning a general election that can bring in a Labour government that can bring hope to people.”
He added: “I believe under my leadership we could bring in a Labour government that could give them that hope.”
Mr Gardiner said he will stand he was assured the backing from 22 fellow MPs, the number needed to pass to the next stage of the race.
10.43am update: Brexit Bill wording reveals ‘intent’ to agree a deal by December 2020
MEP Daniel Hannan has revealed the wording of the political declaration reads: “It is the intent of both parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship such that they can come into force by the end of 2020”.
Boris Johnson met with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen yesterday
10.30am update: Government hasn’t yet requested Big Ben bongs for ‘Brexit day’
A request for Big Ben to chime to mark Brexit on January 31 has yet to be made by the Government, MPs have been told.
Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford said no approach has been received from ministers by the House of Commons Commission.
With Brexit looming, new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is facing a huge challenge to absorb the costs of the UK’s departure from the bloc alongside a “whole range of problems” facing the bloc, from slow growth across the Eurozone to the behaviour of “rogue members” such as Poland and Hungary, a political analyst has said.
During Ms von der Leyen’s speech at the London School of Economics yesterday, she emphasised the importance of prioritising key aspects of the EU’s relationship with the UK after the end of the year, saying without an extension of the transition period, it would not be possible to agree everything.
The event was entitled Old friends, new beginnings: building another future for the EU-UK partnership – and speaking immediately afterwards, Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, told Express.co.uk it had been clear Ms von der Leyen was keen to look beyond Brexit as she seeks to make a mark during her tenure.
He said: “The EU has a whole range of problems and Brexit is just one on a list. There are still problems with the Euro and the Eurozone which will never go away.”
9.39am update: ‘There can be no surrender in reclaiming the UK fishing industry’ – says MEP
Brexit Party MEP June Mummery has said “there should be no surrender in reclaiming the UK fishing industry”.
Writing on Twitter, she asked: “Why should British coastal communities go begging while those within the EU thirve at our expense post-Brexit?”
9.31am update: 80% of Europeans would no longer move to Britain due to Brexit, research finds
New research conducted by Maxwell-Scott has found that 80 percent of Europeans would not longer move to Britain due to Brexit.
The survey, of 123 participants from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, found 23 percent cited the uncertainty surrounding Brexit as the main reason for not considering the move.
Michel Barnier underlined his significant power base within the EU with an impromptu intervention during European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech at the London School of Economics on Wednesday.
Political analyst Professor Tony Travers later said Mr Barnier’s off-the-cuff remarks, during which he emphasised Britain would not be able to implement any trade agreements with third countries until after the UK has officially left the EU, suggested he, not Ms von der Leyen, was in the driving seat when it came to Brexit.
And Professor Travers said Mr Barnier was sending a signal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that even though the UK will leave the bloc at the end of the month, the process would drag on for several more years.
8.25am update: MPs vote against keeping EU’s Erasmus education programme
MPs voted against New Clause 10 being read a second time, by 344 votes to 254 last night.
The clause would have required the Government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme.
The programme helps UK participants study, work, volunteer, teach and train abroad in Europe.
It also supports higher education students to study abroad for up to one year in another European university.
8.19am update: MEP hopes Boris will ‘hold his nerve’ over fishing
Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe has backed the Prime Minister’s aim to maintain control of UK fishing waters.
The MEP wrote on Twitter: “If Boris holds his nerve and reclaims our fishing waters then many Brexiteers will be hugely relieved.
“We wish him the best of luck!”
8.15am update: MPs vote to drop child refugee protections from Brexit Bill
Last night MPs rejected proposals to keep protections for child refugees in Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
MPs voted 348 to 252 against the amendment, which had previously been accepted by Theresa May’s government and which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family members living in the UK after Brexit.