European at heart: More than a thousand Brits have signed a Valentine’s Day card addressed to the European Union this week.
No love lost
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday left Westminster reeling following the abrupt resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid. Speaking to the BBC, Javid said he “had no option” but to resign after refusing to accept Johnson’s demand that he sack his own political advisers and share a joint No. 10 and No. 11 team. The decision to replace Javid’s advisers with those handpicked by No. 10 bears the hallmarks of Dominic Cummings – and it’s no secret that there will be no love lost between the now-ex Chancellor and the Prime Minister’s chief strategist. With the Treasury traditionally regarded as the most powerful department in the British government and the Chancellor as the second most important politician after the Prime Minister, Javid’s shock departure came as a significant blow to Johnson. Rather than cede economic power to Johnson and Cummings, which would allow them to embark upon their quest to direct resources to the former red wall and pro-Brexit north and midlands, Javid resigned – but still managed to wish the Prime Minister a “happy Valentine’s Day” on Friday. He is replaced by rising star and Brexiteer Rishi Sunak.
Brexit tickles Cabinet’s fancy
Javid, a prominent Remainer in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, has been replaced by Sunak, a prominent Brexiteer – meaning that all four Great Offices of State are now occupied by Leavers. Longstanding Brexiteer and former UKIP MEP candidate George Eustice has also replaced Theresa Villiers as Environment Secretary. The Cornish fruit farmer and ex-Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food led the “no to the euro” campaign in 2000 and once advocated for the UK to free itself from the EU’s “spirit-crushing” green directives. Eustice – who previously resigned in protest over the terms of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill – played a key role in the formation of the UK’s post-Brexit Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill. Both farming and fishing will prove critical in the upcoming UK-EU trade negotiations, as the UK shapes its post-CAP (the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy) and post-CFP (the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy) future. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the new International Development Secretary and Suella Braverman, the new Attorney General, were also prominent Leave voices in the 2016 referendum.
Remainers are also back in favour following Oliver Dowden CBE’s promotion to Culture Secretary and Alok Sharma’s promotion to Business Secretary, replacing Baroness Nicky Morgan and senior Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, respectively.
What’s Gove got to do with it?
Michael Gove, who retained his seat at the oval table in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, told businesses to prepare for “inevitable” border checks in the first official confirmation of what the UK’s “Canada-style” trade deal will mean for borders after Brexit. The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster warned there will be checks on food and goods of animal origin, customs declarations and mandatory safety and security certificates for all imports after 31 December 2020. Speaking in London, Gove extinguished at a stroke earlier hopes of frictionless trade with the EU, garnering criticism from UK exporters and transport associations.
Meanwhile, in the City of Love…
French President Emmanuel Macron is engaging in a last-ditch push for a tougher EU negotiating position with Britain over the post-Brexit trade talks, despite criticism from other member states that it will risk derailing the talks before they have even started. Whilst some members are happy with the current EU negotiating mandate, Paris wants to see a stronger commitment from the UK on regulatory alignment in return for maintaining free trade with the bloc. The EU’s initial draft negotiating position, published two weeks ago, had called on the UK to not slip below current standards on the environment and on social and workers’ rights as well as to align with the bloc on state aid, tax and competition rules as they develop. Now, Macron wants the UK to agree to “dynamic alignment” with Brussels across the board to prevent the UK from being handed a competitive advantage in the long term. In particular, there is a growing concern across EU member states that their attempts to increase environmental standards will be held back if there is a risk that the UK will be able to undercut European companies in future.
Back in the UK, Ministers refused to confirm whether the UK will stay in the European Convention on Human Rights beyond the Brexit transition period when asked in House of Commons this week.
And from across the pond…
In Washington, doubts are growing over the UK’s commitment to negotiating a comprehensive trade deal, given its objections to US pharmaceutical firms, chlorine-washed chicken and everything else in between. Relations turned particularly sour after Prime Minister Boris Johnson granted limited involvement in building the UK’s developing 5G network to Chinese tech giant Huawei, despite intense lobbying from the US amid security concerns. Now, President Donald Trump is reportedly flirting with the idea of bumping the EU up the queue for a new trade deal, after months of promises that the UK would be next in line.
The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at email@example.com.