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Tag Archives: Brexit

Brexit: Expats given ‘no disruption’ pledge by Spanish government

English people in SpainImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Spain is the most popular destination for Britons living in other EU countries

Britons living in Spain will not have their lives “disrupted” after Brexit – even if there is no UKEU deal, the Spanish foreign minister says.

The two sides are yet to reach an agreement about how the rights of expats will be protected after Brexit.

Theresa May has called for “urgency” from the EU side in finding a solution.

And speaking on the BBC‘s Andrew Marr Show, Alfonso Dastis sought to reassure more than 300,000 Britons living in Spain.

“I do hope that there will be a deal,” the minister said.

“If there is no deal we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain, the UK people, is not disrupted.

“As you know, the relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic relations and also social exchanges.

“Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here and we want to keep it that way as much as possible.”

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Media captionBritish expats sum up Brexit in one word

According to the Office for National Statistics, Spain is host to the largest number of British citizens living in the EU (308,805), and just over a third (101,045) are aged 65 and over.

Citizens’ rights are one of the first subjects being negotiated in the first round of Brexit talks – which have moved so slowly there has been increased talk of no deal at all being reached between the two sides.

The role of the European Court of Justice in guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in the UK has been a sticking point. The EU argues this must continue, but ministers say the EU court will no longer have jurisdiction in the UK after Brexit.

Ahead of last week‘s Brussels summit, Mrs May said the two sides were “in touching distance” of finding an agreement.

On Monday she is expected to tell MPs she will “put people first” in the “complicated and deeply technical” negotiations.

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Brexit: Emily Thornberry predicts no deal with the EU

Emily ThornberryImage copyright JEFF OVERS/BBC

Brexit negotiations with the EU are heading for a “no deal” scenario, Labour’s Emily Thornberry has warned.

Shadow foreign secretary Ms Thornberry said the PM‘s failure to control her party was causing “intransigence” on the UK side, which was a “serious threat to Britain” and its interests.

But International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said a failure to agree a deal was “not exactly a nightmare scenario”.

The UK was preparing “mitigation” measures for such an outcome, he said.

Meanwhile, the Spanish foreign minister said the lives of UK expats in Spain would not be “disrupted” even if no Brexit deal is agreed.

Theresa May will update MPs on Monday on the progress made at last week‘s Brussels summit, where EU leaders agreed to begin scoping work on future trade talks while asking for more concessions from the UK on the opening phase of negotiations.

These talks, covering the UK’s “divorce bill”, the rights of expats after Brexit and the border in Northern Ireland, have failed to reach agreement so far – leading to a focus on what happens if nothing is put in place by the time the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019.

Speaking on the BBC‘s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Thornberry said: “I think what we may be seeing is the Europeans trying to make it clear that it is not their fault that there are these difficulties – the intransigence does not come from their side, it comes from Theresa May’s side.

“And in the end I think the reality is the intransigence is on Theresa May’s side, because she doesn’t have the strength or the authority to be able to control her backbenchers, let alone her cabinet. And I think we are heading for no deal, and I think that that is a serious threat to Britain and it is not in Britain’s interests for that to happen.

“We will stop that.”

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Media captionThree key points about how the Brexit talks are going

Labour is seeking to work with Tory rebels to amend a key plank of Brexit legislation – the EU Withdrawal Bill – so that Parliament has the power to reject whatever the outcome of the negotiations turns out to be.

Following last week‘s summit, European Council President Donald Tusk said that although not enough progress had been made to begin trade talks, reports of deadlock may have been exaggerated.

French President Emmanuel Macron said there was still much work to be done on the financial commitment before trade talks can begin, adding: “We are not halfway there.”

Speaking on ITV‘s Peston on Sunday, Mr Fox said a final figure for the UK’s financial settlement with the EU cannot come “until we know what the final package looks like”, later in the negotiation process.

‘People first’

He also dismissed President Macron’s suggestion that “secondary players” in the UK were “bluffing” about the possibility of a no deal outcome, saying this was “completely wrong”.

Mr Fox, who is responsible for striking global trade deals after Brexit, said he would prefer a “comprehensive” arrangement to be agreed – but was “not scared” of what would happen if this was not possible.

When she addresses MPs on Monday, Mrs May is expected to reaffirm her commitment to EU nationals living in the UK, saying she will “put people first” in the “deeply technical” talks.

Speaking on the Marr show, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said expats would be allowed to continue living in Spain even if no Brexit deal was reached.

“I do hope that there will be a deal,” he said.

“If there is no deal we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain, the UK people, is not disrupted.

“As you know, the relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic relations and also social exchanges.

“Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here, and we want to keep it that way as much as possible.”

Thornberry: UK ‘heading for no-deal Brexit’

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has said she thinks the UK is “heading for no deal” with the European Union in its Brexit negotiations.

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr, she said the scenario is “a serious threat” to Britain.

And she vowed that Labour “would try to stop it”.

Newspaper headlines: Roadworks ‘misery’ to end and EU ‘saves May’

The Times front page
Image caption The 50mph (80km/h) speed limit for sections of motorways with roadworks is to be increased to 60mph (96km/h), the Times reports. The paper says tests using heart monitors showed motorists felt more relaxed at the higher limit because it allows them to accelerate away from large lorries and spend less time checking their speedometers.
Daily Mail front page
Image caption “Have our police lost the plot?” is the front page headline of the Daily Mail. The paper says police chiefs have been urged to abandon “silly stunts” and get officers back on the beat after taking part in “increasingly bizarre gimmicks”.
Daily Telegraph front page
Image caption The Daily Telegraph leads on the latest round of Brexit talks, saying that EU leaders significantly “softened” their stance with the UK amid fears Theresa May’s government could collapse if negotiations remain deadlocked. The paper quotes German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying she is in “absolutely no doubt” that the two parties can make a success of the negotiations.
The i paper front page
Image caption The i says EU leaders have broken the “stalemate” over the negotiations by agreeing to discuss trade arrangements with the UK. But the paper notes that Europeans have also demanded more clarity over the size of the UK’s Brexit divorce bill.
Guardian front page
Image caption The Guardian reports that children with mental health problems are waiting up to 18 months for treatment. The revelations are contained in an upcoming Care Quality Commission report that will shine a light on the “poor care” many young people receive, the paper says.
FT front page
Image caption Board members of The Weinstein Company tried to investigate co-founder Harvey Weinstein for years but ran into “super lawyers” who acted for the Hollywood producer, according to the Financial Times. The paper says the concerns pre-date accusations of sexual harassment directed against Weinstein.
Daily Mirror front page
Image caption The Daily Mirror leads on an interview with the mum of Strictly Come Dancing Star and Paralympian Jonnie Peacock, who tells the paper doctors told her to say goodbye to her son when he was just five years old as he lay fighting for his life in hospital.
The Sun front page
Image caption The Sun reports that Coronation Street star Bruno Langley is at the centre of an ITV internal investigation after a woman complained that he had behaved inappropriately. Mr Langley, 34, is said to be “devastated” by the claims, which he “vehemently denies”.
The Daily Express front page
Image caption The Daily Express warns of impending “killer storm chaos” on its front page. The paper said Storm Brian was “hurtling” towards Britain on Friday night, bringing with it potentially “deadly weather“.
Daily Star front page
Image caption And the Daily Star also leads on the storm, reporting that the Army is on standby to respond.

Some of the papers try to put a figure on what the UK’s Brexit bill might be.

The Daily Mirror thinks it could be £36bn, noting that Prime Minister Theresa May did not rule out a doubling of the current £18bn offer.

The Daily Telegraph‘s suggestion is £40bn, while the Sun says it has been told by one senior Brussels diplomat the EU wants £48bn.

The paper says this would leave the prime minister needing to convince taxpayers why it is worth paying such a huge sum, although it does note some believe that the long-term losses from not striking a deal could dwarf this figure.

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The way the EU referendum was fought and the role of Twitter is the subject of an article on the Buzzfeed website.

It says a study has found that a network of more than 13,000 bots – or automated pieces of software – tweeted predominantly pro-Brexit messages in the run-up to the vote.

The researchers at City, the University of London, say they are concerned this tactic gave a “false sense of momentum behind certain ideas”.

Damian Collins, the Conservative chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, tells Buzzfeed he has written to Twitter to ask whether there has been any “interference in the democratic process”.

Twitter says its systems identify more than three million suspicious accounts every week.

EU’s ‘softened’ stance

There seems to be a consensus that the EU softened its stance on Brexit at the European Council summit.

The Daily Telegraph thinks this was because of fears in Brussels that Mrs May’s government could collapse if the negotiations remained deadlocked.

Oliver Duff, the editor of the i paper, goes further, arguing Mrs May successfully emphasised her weakness – in effect saying “you think I’m a pain in the proverbial? Try Boris or David Davis”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A number of papers focus on what the UK’s Brexit bill might be

The Sun warns Brussels not to overplay its hand by asking for too much money in return for trade talks.

The Guardian thinks the prime minister had a decent 24 hours in Brussels and hopes there is a shared recognition that the EU and the UK have a common interest in making the best of Brexit.

The Times columnist, Matthew Paris, warns the crisis in Catalonia could bring a violent civil conflict to Spain and threaten its very existence.

He is angry that what he calls “tinpot nationalists on both sides have puffed themselves into an entirely avoidable high noon”, arguing the problems could have been resolved with “a little respect”.

According to the Financial Times, two board members of the Weinstein Company tried for years to investigate Harvey Weinstein because of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Trump backlash

Donald Trump‘s tweet claiming crime in the UK has risen because of Islamic terror prompts a backlash in the papers.

The Daily Mirror quotes the Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames, who calls Mr Trump “a daft twerp”, suggesting he should “fix gun control” instead.

The Washington Post suggests the president was again trying to raise the spectre of terrorismdays after another court blocked one of his travel bans.

In its coverage of the controversy, the Daily Telegraph compares crime levels in London and New York and comes to the conclusion the British capital is worse.

It says the cities both have similar populations but in London someone is six times more likely to be burgled and three times more likely to report a rape – although the murder rate in New York remains higher.

The paper puts the difference down to New York’s zero tolerance approach in the 1990s.

‘Silly stunts’

On its front page, the Daily Mail asks “have our police lost the plot?” – picturing two support officers wearing bear masks.

It says forces are being urged to abandon silly stunts and get officers back on the beat.

In its lead, the Times reports that the 50mph (80km/h) speed limit imposed on drivers going past roadworks is to be eased.

It says research involving heart monitors suggests drivers are more relaxed going at 60mph (96km/h), in part because they can overtake slower-moving lorries.

But, it seems, motorists are facing added stress at airports because of a sharp rise in short-term parking fees.

According to the Daily Mail, they are being charged up to 35 pence a minute to drop off loved ones. taking the cost of a goodbye kiss to about £3.

Credit where it’s due

Shoppers reflected in windowImage copyright AFP
Image caption Is the economy moving fast enough to bear a rate rise?

It’s been 10 years since the UK last saw interest rates rise.

Back then, the iPhone had only just been unveiled, Twitter was a one-year old mystery and Instagram didn’t even exist.

Hard to imagine life without these things now, but interest rates of 5.75% and Gordon Brown as prime minister seem strangely alien.

After that 0.25% rise, the world of monetary policy went into a tailspin, with central banks imposing a rapid series of interest rate cuts as it attempted to outrun the credit crunch.

Finally, in March 2009 they hit a record low of 0.5% until being cut again to 0.25% in August 2016 in the aftermath of the shock Brexit vote.

It will certainly be an unfamiliar feeling to see rates rise, although discussions about lifting them have rumbled during much of that almost nine-year period of record lows.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hold the phone: The last time rates went up the iPhone had just come out in the US

Next month is hotly tipped to be the one that changes the direction of interest rates. Last month, Mark Carney dropped what was seen as his biggest hint yet that rates would be increased soon, possibly in November.

Granted, the economic backdrop is difficult to decipher.

This week saw inflation at a five-year high, weak retail sales figures on Thursday – but government borrowing figures on Friday way better than expected.

And the underlying picture is of sluggish economic growth, persistently weak productivity, and wage rises that lag inflation and eat into earning power.

On top of that, household debt is rising five times faster than earnings and is more than £200bn – a state of affairs that Bank of England governor Mark Carney has remarked on often.

We ask two former rate-setters from the Bank of England‘s Monetary Policy Committee whether now is the time to bite the bullet.

The case for: Dame Kate Barker, non-executive director at Taylor Wimpey and Man Group, MPC member 2001-2010

“First of all, I would try very hard not to give advice to the Monetary Policy Committee. When you’re on it, you have so much more information to go on. But I might be tempted to join the ‘Raise’ group.

“I am concerned about the level of credit.”

She believes the Brexit effect is one that is out of the Bank’s control: “You can cut the level of credit, you can’t really do anything with monetary policy to offset the difficulties that are inevitable because of Brexit.

“We are going to go into a period of economic difficulty that will be worse if we have people with high borrowing.”

But won’t higher interest rates make life even worse for those with high debts, by simply making them harder to pay off?

“We have to try to keep the economy in reasonable balance. There was a failure to pay enough attention to what was going on with credit in households and small businesses in the run-up to the crisis.

“The debt position is precarious. Sooner or later, we are going to have to move to raise rates. If not, even more people will be taking on credit. We need to encourage savers and discourage borrowers.”

She accepts there is a worry about higher inflation, while the tightness of the labour market – which should mean higher wages – getting tighter still if fewer people come to the UK to work from the European Union.

She accepts the retail sales figure for September was weak, but points out that it does not capture the whole of what the consumer is doing, and that the GDP numbers are “fairly feeble”.

Her vote is to move rates higher now.

The case against: Dr Sushil Wadhwani, founder of Sushil Wadhwani Asset Management, MPC member 1999-2002

“In essence, in an ideal world, it would have been good if rates had been raised a year, or two, or three ago and were now at a higher level.

“That would have helped to prevent the build-up of consumer debt that Kate and so many of us are concerned about.

“However, at this stage, the horse has bolted. The debt has already built up now and I’m not sure the macro-economic conjuncture justifies a rise at this stage,” Dr Wadhwani says.

He accepts higher inflation, which is outstripping wages, is a worry, but says that will work itself out of the system: “We all know that inflation is higher because of temporary factors relating to the pound and Brexit. Wage rises are benign and growth is pretty anaemic – and could get even weaker.

“It seems odd to be raising rates at a time when growth is likely to weaken further. It would be much better to hang on and wait for the uncertainty surrounding Brexit to lift.”

He also sees Kate Barker’s point on Brexit being none of the Bank of England’s doing – and hard for it to counter: “It’s true that the bank has no responsibility to deal with Brexit per se – it’s a political decision.

“You are, though, dealt a hand and you have to deal with it – Brexit appears to reduce demand more than it reduces supply, so as a bank, you have to keep your foot on the pedal [keep rates low] to stimulate the economy, and that’s what it should do.

“No real policy mistake is going to be committed by not raising rates at this stage.”

Brexit: Talk of deadlock is exaggerated, says Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk at the summitImage copyright AFP

Reports of deadlock over Brexit negotiations may have been exaggerated, European Council President Donald Tusk has said after a Brussels summit.

Progress was “not sufficient” to begin trade talks with the UK now but that “doesn’t mean there is no progress at all”, he said.

EU leaders will discuss the issue internally, paving the way for talks with the UK, possibly in December.

Theresa May said there was “some way to go” but she was “optimistic”.

Speaking at the end of a two-day summit, Mr Tusk told reporters: “My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described the talks as deadlocked earlier this month.

Mr Tusk said he was not at odds with Mr Barnier, but his own role was to be a “positive motivator for the next five or six weeks”.

He said he felt there was “goodwill” on both sides “and this is why I, maybe, in my rhetoric, I’m, maybe, a little bit more optimistic than Michel Barnier, but we are also in a different role“.

‘Not halfway there’

The so-called divorce bill remains a major sticking point in talks with the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron said there was still much work to be done on the financial commitment before trade talks can begin, adding: “We are not halfway there.”

Theresa May declined to say in a press conference after the summit what the UK would be prepared to pay, saying the “final settlement” would come as part of a “final agreement” with the EU.

The UK prime minister did not name any figures but refused to deny that she had told other EU leaders the UK could pay many more billions of pounds than the £20bn she had indicated in her Florence speech last month.

“I have said that … we will honour the commitments that we have made during our membership,” she said. But those commitments were being analysed “line by line” she said, adding: “British taxpayer wouldn’t expect its government to do anything else.”

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Analysis

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Media captionThree key points about how the Brexit talks are going

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

There are whispers that Theresa May has privately reassured the other leaders that she is willing to put a lot more than the implicit 20 billion euros (£17.8bn) on the table as we leave.

Number 10 doesn’t deny this, Mrs May didn’t deny it when we asked her in the press conference today, nor did she reject the idea that the bill could be as high as 60 billion euros.

If she has actually given those private reassurances though, there’s not much evidence the other EU leaders believe her or think it’s enough.

But if she is to make that case more forcefully she has big political problems at home.

Read Laura’s blog

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She said the two sides were within “touching distance” of a deal on other issues – particularly on citizens‘ rights.

“I am ambitious and positive for Britain’s future and for these negotiations but I know we still have some way to go,” she said.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, following last year‘s referendum result.

It had hoped to move onto phase two of negotiations – covering future trade arrangements – after this week‘s summit.

But EU leaders took just 90 seconds to officially conclude that not enough progress has been made on the issues of citizens‘ rights, the UK’s financial obligation and the border in Northern Ireland, but “internal preparations” would begin for phase two.

The prime minister made a personal appeal to her 27 EU counterparts at a working dinner on Thursday night, telling them that “we must work together to get to an outcome that we can stand behind and defend to our people“.

BBC Europe editor Katya Adler said all EU leaders knew Mrs May was in a politically difficult situation and did not want her to go home empty-handed, so had promised they would start talking about trade and transition deals among themselves, as early as Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were “encouraging” signs of progress in Brexit negotiations and the process was progressing “step by step”.

And European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he hoped it would be possible to reach a “fair deal” with Britain.

“Our working assumption is not the ‘no-deal’ scenario. I hate the ‘no-deal’ scenario. I don’t know what that means,” he said.

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Brexit: May offers more assurances to EU nationals

Anti-Brexit demonstrator outside ParliamentImage copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May says the future of British and EU nationals has always been her “first priority”

Theresa May has vowed to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit ahead of a key summit of European leaders.

In a Facebook post, the prime minister insisted the application process for settled status would be “streamlined” and the cost “as low as possible”.

She said representatives of EU citizens will sit on a “user group” which will iron out any problems in the system.

The other 27 EU leaders will assess overall progress in the talks so far.

At a meeting on Friday, at which the UK will not be present, they are expected to conclude officially that “insufficient progress” has been made on the status of EU nationals in the UK and British expats on the continent – and other separation issues – to move onto the second phase of trade discussions.

European Council President Donald Tusk said there would be no “breakthrough” at the two-day summit, but progress could be achieved by the next scheduled meeting of EU leaders in December.

Before leaving for Brussels, Mrs May used her Facebook post to offer further assurances to the three million or so nationals of other EU countries living in the UK and uncertain about their future after Brexit.

In her message, she said those who already had permanent residence would be able to “swap this” for settled status in as hassle-free a way as possible.


Some encouragement for UK

Image copyright AFP

Analysis by Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly

The October summit was always the first date in the EU calendar on which a gathering of the 27 heads of government could declare themselves satisfied with the Brexit divorce negotiations and agree to start talking about trade.

It’s been clear for weeks that they won’t do that – but they will offer the UK some encouragement by starting internal discussions about future trade with the UK – ready for any breakthrough at the next summit in December.

Theresa May isn’t expected to make any big new proposal in her after-dinner remarks but to underline the quality of the financial offer made in her speech in Florence – worth around £20bn.

The EU side wants more though – more money as well as further movement on citizens rights and the Irish border.

There are almost as many predictions about what happens next as there as diplomats in Brussels; one has suggested that the prospects of a December breakthrough are no better than fifty-fifty but an official close to the talks said the signal on Brexit from this summit would be fundamentally positive.


“I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented,” she wrote.

“People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

“We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.”

The process of applying for permanent residency, for which EU nationals are eligible after five years, has long been criticised as cumbersome and overly bureaucratic. At one point, it involved filling out an 85-page form.

‘People first’

In simplifying it, Mrs May said she was committed to putting “people first” in the negotiations and expected British nationals living on the continent to be treated in the same way.

“I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals with an open mind and with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.”

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Media captionThornberry: Labour will not accept a no-deal Brexit

Mrs May, who will address other leaders at a working dinner on Thursday, wants mutual dialogue on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including trade and defence, to begin as soon as possible.

But Mr Tusk is expected to propose to the 27 EU leaders that they begin talks amongst themselves about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

As well as citizens’ rights, the two sides remain at odds over the so-called financial “divorce” settlement and the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

A group of pro-Brexit Tory and Labour politicians, including former Chancellor Lord Lawson, is urging Mrs May to walk away from negotiations this week if the EU does not accommodate the UK’s wishes.

A letter to the PM, organised by the Leave Means Leave campaign and also signed by pro-Brexit business figures, says the government “has been more than patient” and “decisive action” is now needed to end the “highly damaging” levels of uncertainty facing businesses.

In the event of no progress at Thursday’s meeting, the letter says, Mrs May should formally declare the UK is working on the assumption it will be reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on 30 March 2019.

Early notification of such a move would allow the UK to “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” and prepare to “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit, it adds.

EU Withdrawal Bill ‘won’t be debated this month’

EU flagImage copyright EPA

The EU Withdrawal Bill may not now be discussed in the House of Commons until after the Autumn recess, sources have told the BBC.

The law is designed to transfer EU law into UK law ahead of Brexit.

It is facing stiff resistance from some Tory rebels as well as from the opposition parties.

One official source said it was not yet back in the house of Commons because there simply “is not enough political agreement yet”.

MPs return from Autumn recess on 13 November.

A Department for Exiting the EU source told the BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg it was not being delayed, because a date had never been set.

But the BBC’s political editor said the expectation in Whitehall had been that the bill would be back in the House of Commons straight after the party conference season if the government was to have any chance of getting it through Parliament by the Spring.

The decision to not bring it back until at least the middle of November makes it less likely ministers will be able to push it through on time, she added.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the bill seeks to transfer European laws into UK laws and avoid a legislative “black hole” on Brexit day.

But critics have described it as a “power grab” by the government.

It has already passed its second reading, and is now facing several attempts to amend it at the next part of its Parliamentary journey, the committee stage.

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Brexit Minister Robin Walker said the Commons would be debating it “within weeks” and that it would offer “continuity and certainty” as the UK leaves the EU.

But Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said: “This is further proof that the government’s Brexit strategy is in paralysis.

“The negotiations are in deadlock and now a crucial piece of legislation is facing further delay.”

UK ‘not realistic’ about Brexit money

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Amber Rudd calls Brexit without a deal ‘unthinkable’

Amber RuddImage copyright House of Commons

The prospect of Brexit happening without a deal being reached between the UK and the EU is “unthinkable”, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said.

Ms Rudd was responding to a question about the impact on security of nothing being agreed before the UK leaves.

“We will make sure there is something between them and us to maintain our security,” she assured MPs.

Earlier Brexit Secretary David Davis defended keeping the “no deal” option open in the on-going negotiations.

After five rounds of Brexit negotiations, the EU has described the talks as in “deadlock” and there has been an increased debate about the possibility of the UK leaving without a deal in place.

One of the UK’s aims is for a new security treaty with the EU, and Ms Rudd told the Commons Home Affairs Committee contingency plans were being made in case this was not in place by the UK’s departure in March 2019.

Asked whether, if there was “no deal of any form”, Britain would be as safe and secure as it currently is, she replied: “I think it is unthinkable there would be no deal.

“It is so much in their interests as well as ours – in their communities’, families’, tourists’ interests to have something in place.”

Ms Rudd also said it was “unthinkable” EU citizens would be asked to leave the UK after Brexit, but was unable to offer guarantees while negotiations continue.

Mr Davis was asked about a “no deal” scenario as he updated MPs on Monday’s dinner between Theresa May and EU officials.

Reaching agreement with the EU is “by far and away the best option” he said, adding: “The maintenance of the option of no deal is for both negotiating reasons and sensible security – any government doing its job properly will do that.”

Mr Davis also said the UK was “reaching the limits of what we can achieve” in Brexit talks without moving on to talk about trade.

He urged EU leaders to give counterpart Michel Barnier the green light at this week‘s EU summit to begin trade talks.

Mr Barnier said he wanted to speed up talks but “it takes two to accelerate”.

This was a reference to comments made by Mrs May after her dinner with the EU’s chief negotiator, in which she said the two sides had agreed on the need to “accelerate” the process.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Barnier said a “constructive dynamic” was needed over the next two months but “there was a lot of work to do” and issues must be tackled in the “right order”.

“At the moment we are still not yet at the first step which is securing citizen rights, guaranteeing the long term success of the good Friday agreement and finalising the accounts,” he said.

The talks – which were held as EU member states prepare to assess progress so far on Thursday – were said to be “constructive and friendly” but the UK’s financial settlement with the EU continues to be a sticking point and the EU will not discuss trade until this has been settled.

Along with the UK’s “divorce bill”, the EU is insisting agreement be reached on citizens‘ rights and what happens on the Northern Ireland border before agreeing to open talks on the free trade deal Mrs May’s government wants to strike.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Mrs May and Mr Juncker embraced after their working dinner in Brussels

In his Commons statement, Mr Davis urged the EU to give Mr Barnier a mandate to start discussing its future relations with the UK, including trade and defence, telling MPs he was “ready to move the negotiations on”.

He suggested the UK was “reaching the limits of what we can achieve without consideration of the future relationship”.

“Our aim remains to provide as much certainty to business and citizens on both sides. To fully provide that certainty, we must be able to talk about the future.”

‘Right path’

On citizens’ rights, he said key issues such as the rules on family reunion, the right to return, the onward movement of British expats in Europe and the right of EU residents to export benefits had still to be settled.

Announcing that EU citizens who currently have permanent residence in the UK would not have to go through the full process of re-applying before Brexit, he said the UK had consistently “gone further and provided more certainty” on their status than the EU had done.

While the UK had “some way to secure the new partnership with the EU”, he was “confident we are on the right path”.

Speaking in the Commons earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he thought a reported bill of £100bn was too high and urged the EU to “get serious” and agree to settle the citizens’ rights question.

For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said EU and UK citizens were still no wiser over their future while it “appeared the deadlock over the financial settlement is such that the two sides are barely talking”.

“Nobody should underestimate the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in. At the first hurdle, the government has failed to hit a very important target.”

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