Today I participated in the Swedish Annual Customs and Trade Symposium (Customs Day 2018), this time in Malmö.

I spoke about Brexit in front of a huge audience. It was highest participation since 1995, when Sweden joined the European Union. Brexit is starting to raise the right interest also in Sweden.

This event is arranged by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Southern Sweden, the TransportIndustryAssociation and Swedish Customs.

These Symposiums are extremely important arenas for interaction between Customs and the Private Sector.

This is a platform that has been successful for decades in Sweden and it is very popular.

I truly enjoy visiting these symposiums. Great events, good organization, fantastic crowd – so many friends and colleague.

Theresa May has told EU leaders she is prepared to consider extending the Brexit transition period as she called on them to show “courage” and come up with “creative” ideas to break the current deadlock.

At a summit in Brussels the Prime Minister said Britain would be open to the idea of staying tied to the EU beyond the end of December 2020, even though that could mean paying billions more to Brussels.

Last week the Telegraph revealed that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had proposed extending transition by another year, to the end of 2021, to allow more time for a trade deal to be worked out.

On Wednesday Mr Barnier said “much more time” was needed to find a solution to the Irish border problem, and extending the transition period could help defuse the row over the current backstop solution.

However Eurosceptics have already reacted with fury to the idea, pointing out that it would cost between £6 billion and £14 billion in extra payments to the EU.

It came as five former Cabinet ministers, including Boris Johnson and David Davis, warned the Prime Minister that she will not be forgiven by the British people if Brexit is reduced to a “choreographed show of resistance followed by surrender”.

Mrs May spent around 20 minutes addressing the other 27 EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday night, during which the idea of an extended transition period was discussed, according to senior EU officials.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president, said: “It was mentioned. Both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table and would have to be looked into.”

A senior EU official said: “She mentioned the transition period. She said the UK would be ready to consider the extension of the transition period.”

Mrs May tried to shift the onus on to her counterparts by saying they needed to find “creative solutions” to the Northern Irish border problem.

In a comment that will be interpreted as a reference to Vladimir Putin, she also reportedly pleaded with them to agree a deal because otherwise “those outside the EU will claim the current world order is crumbling, they will cheer and we don’t want them to do that”.

However, the other 27 leaders tried to throw the ball back into her court, with one saying it was “very difficult” to negotiate with her because she does not have a “strong mandate” and the British “do not know what they really want”.

Mrs May said she remained “confident” of a deal being done, but the chances of a November summit being convened to sign off a deal appeared to vanish.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he was not willing to come back in November “just to have a cup of coffee and some shortbread”, while Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, said: “I don’t think we should call a summit just to talk.”

This week’s summit had been described by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, as a “moment of truth” for Brexit, but in reality Mrs May arrived with little or no expectation of a breakthrough being made.

With both sides entrenched in their positions over alternative plans for a backstop plan if no agreement can be reached over the Northern Irish border, Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said: “Brexit must be orderly…so we need time, we need much more time and we continue the work in the next weeks calmly and patiently, calmly and patiently.”

Mrs May told the EU27 that: “We have shown we can do difficult deals together constructively – I remain confident of a good outcome.

“The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides.” A senior UK official added that Mrs May’s message was: “We need to find creative ways out of this dilemma.”

Mr Tajani said: “There was a message of goodwill and readiness to reach an agreement, but I didn’t perceive anything substantially new in terms of content as I listened to Mrs May.”

Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania’s Prime Minister, said:  “We need a very concrete understanding what the UK really wants.

To stay one leg on the continent and one leg in UK not possible. “We do not know what they want, they do not know themselves what they really want – that’s the problem.

“We have time, I think the UK has less time. It’s very difficult for European side to negotiate with a person who has no full support of the position.

“If you have on the other side of the table negotiator who has no strong mandate it’s very difficult to negotiate.”

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would “always try everything to find an agreement”, and the Dutch premier Mark Rutte said: “I do think that over the coming weeks we should get there.”

Earlier, Jeremy Corbyn asked Mrs May in the Commons if her Chequers plan for Brexit “is now dead” after she failed to mention it by name in her party conference speech or at any point since.

She replied: “The answer is no.”

While Mrs May attended what was originally perceived to be a pivotal summit for outlining the future of Brexit, Eurosceptic MPs – including Mr Johnson and Mr Davis in their first joint intervention since quitting cabinet – urged her to change course by reversing her Chequers proposal and resetting negotiations while she still has the chance.

In a letter they called on the Prime Minister to abandon her “unpopular” Chequers plan, which would tie Britain to European standards on goods.

The letter, also signed by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary, and Owen Paterson, as well as Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: “It has been formally rejected by the EU, it is opposed by over 400 MPs, and it is less popular with the public than the Poll Tax.”

“Anything other than straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty for business, consumers and citizens.”

Dominic Raab

The Prime Minister wants the whole of the UK to remain in a customs union during the backstop period, while the EU has suggested that only Northern Ireland only should remain in a customs union and single market, creating a border in the Irish Sea.

It later emerged that Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, showed EU 27 leaders a news story about a 1972 IRA bombing of a border customs post, which murdered eight people, in Wednesday’s Irish Times.

The message was clear; he wanted to impress upon them the crucial importance of the Irish border issue.

The story was headlined “If Brexit brings the violence back, they will be younger and they will have no fear becuase they won’t remember”, which was a quote from a daughter of a victim of the terror attack.

Separately, Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, suggested the Government will try to block any amendments to the final, meaningful vote on Brexit. Remainers are expected to try to use the vote to halt Brexit.

He said that the decision must be “unequivocal”, adding: “Anything other than straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty for business, consumers and citizens.”

Mrs May will on Friday take part in a conference call with 150 business leaders to brief them on the latest from the Brexit talks.

Source: The Telegraph

Theresa May is willing to consider extending the proposed 21-month transition period after Brexit to break the current deadlock over Northern Ireland, senior EU officials have said.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said No 10 had refused to rule out extending it during a summit in Brussels.

The PM has been addressing EU leaders in the hope of advancing the process.

But EU officials said insufficient progress had been made to call a special summit of leaders next month.

The two sides are currently proposing an implementation period from 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020.

The BBC’s political editor said extending it until to the end of 2021, as has been proposed by the EU, would cause a “lot of hostility” among Tory Brexiteers as it would substantially extend the period during which the UK would remain subject to EU rules without having a say in them.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but an agreement on how this will happen is currently proving elusive amid differences over how to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The prime minister spoke for about 15 minutes at a dinner of all 28 EU leaders, after which they will decide what their next move should be.

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, welcomed what he said was Mrs May’s constructive tone but added that she had offered “nothing new” of substance.

Mr Tajani suggested that Mrs May had shown willingness to look into the possibility of extending the proposed 21-month transition period following Brexit to three years.

“Both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table and would have to be looked into,” he said.

“She underlined the importance of the issue but she didn’t say anything in terms of content.

“She said we will keep under consideration the issue of the transition period but she did not say anything in favour or against the three-year period.”

The UK has said the transition period, dependent on an overall deal being agreed, is necessary to stop a “cliff-edge” for business and give the two sides time to agree their future relationship.

Earlier, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a longer transition period was not a substitute for an agreement on the so-called Irish backstop, designed to prevent the need for customs checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic until a wider trade deal is done.

But he said it would have some merits, adding “if it did help to reassure people that the backstop would never be activated, that would be a positive thing”.

BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley, in Brussels, said EU sources suggested the PM had given a “relatively positive assessment” and while there was goodwill on both sides “we are not where we would have liked to be”.

He said the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, would update leaders on the preparedness for all scenarios including no deal.

Source: BBC News

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is open to extending Britain’s Brexit transition period by another year, according to reports. Mr Barnier has said he is open to the possibility of a one-year extension to Britain’s Brexit transition in return for British prime minister heresa May accepting a “two-tier” backstop to avoid a border in Northern Ireland, according to EU diplomats.

On the eve of a Brexit summit in Brussels on Wednesday night, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator told ministers from the 27 member states that Brussels was ready to propose fresh ideas to reach a deal by next month, the Financial Times said.

The plan, informally suggested to the UK in talks last week, involves including a one-year extension clause for the 21-month transition period, which ends in December 2020. This would grant more time to agree a new UK-EU trade relationship and avoid special arrangements for Northern Ireland. Britain, however, objected to significant elements of the plan for Northern Ireland, effectively suspending talks until after the summit of EU leaders this week.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Barnier told EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg of his vision for a “two tier” backstop that could be included in the withdrawal agreement to ensure an open border was always maintained between Northern Ireland and the State.

This would include both a backstop for Northern Ireland alone, keeping it within the EU customs union and single market for goods, and alternative references to a UK-wide customs union.

Any separate UK-EU customs arrangements would, however, have to take the form of a new treaty to be negotiated and agreed in full after Brexit. “The extension and two-tier backstop arrangement would only be offered if all other parts of the Withdrawal Agreement are reached,” said one official in the room.

The FT quoted another diplomat, who said: “The extension is an example of how we could be flexible to help the British side if they want it.”

Mr Barnier’s comments come as Mrs May prepares to address leaders of the EU27 on Wednesday evening in Brussels. She will then leave them to discuss the next steps on Brexit over dinner in her absence.

Mr Barnier said the Brexit process must be “orderly for everyone and in all subjects – including Ireland”.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth has urged Ms May to “take responsibility” for Brexit.

“The situation is very serious . . . All involved must now look into whether the compromises made have been sufficient. For us, it is clear, we want a fair deal with the GB. But it must be a deal that preserves the integrity of the single market,” he said.

Mr Roth said his message to Mrs May is, “take responsibility and be constructive”.

While the UK was demanding “flexibility” from Brussels, the EU was limited in its room for manoeuvre because of the need to keep the Irish Border open, he said.

“We can have either a smooth Brexit or rocky one,” said France’s EU affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau. “We all prefer a smooth one but we have to stand ready if there is no deal.”

EU leaders have scrapped plans to discuss and publish a draft declaration this week on the bloc’s future trade deal with the UK after the derailment of the talks over the Border, in a blow to Ms May. An outline of an agreement was due to be “on the table” at a summit dinner of leaders on Wednesday night. When Brexit secretary Dominic Raab refused to sign off on an agreement on the Border have carefully choreographed plans came to a halt.

“Since there is no agreement on the Irish backstop there will not be an outline of joint political declaration on the table on Wednesday evening. [That] will not change before Wednesday,” said a senior EU official. ”

Mrs May briefed her senior ministers in an extended session of cabinet ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting.

There was strong support from cabinet ministers for Mrs May’s insistence that any Brexit deal must maintain the integrity of the union and cannot keep the UK indefinitely in a backstop customs arrangement, said Mrs May’s spokesman.

Mr Barnier said he hopes a deal with Britain is possible “in the coming weeks”.

With no likelihood of a deal this week, a special Brexit summit is expected to be scheduled for November. But it remains unclear whether this will be framed as a final opportunity to reach agreement or as a chance for the 27 to make preparations for a disorderly no-deal withdrawal.

The prime minister told the House of Commons on Monday that an exit agreement is still “achievable”.

Coveney confident about deal

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said because the UK is “determined to leave the customs union and the single market, because the UK says it wants bilateral trade deals” the Government must insist on the backstop.

This is “to protect the island of Ireland and the two jurisdictions on it, ensuring . . . normality between communities trading with each other, that that isn’t undermined as an unintended consequence of Brexit,” he said.

Speaking ahead of a private meeting on Tuesday in Luxembourg with Mr Barnier, the Tánaiste said he is confident that the Barnier taskforce, and Mr Barnier himself, “will deliver a deal that is consistent with what’s already been committed to in these negotiations, which is not an unreasonable ask”.

Mr Coveney is meeting with Mr Barnier to discuss the current state of play in negotiations. And in particular talks on the draft Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the backstop on avoiding a hard border.

“Our bottom line on this is that we must have a backstop in the withdrawal treaty,” said Mr Coveney. “That backstop cannot be time limited in terms of an end date. It needs to be there unless and until something better is negotiated and agreed.” – Additional reporting agencies.

Source: Irish Times

21 goals and 9 assist on 25 matches in MLS – now Zlatan Ibrahimovic is nominated in three different categories in the MLS Awards.

The Swedish international has had a fabtastic season in MLS after leaving Manchester United and Premiere League due to a serious knee injury. There is no doubt that Zlatan is back!

The latest estimate from the World Bank puts global GDP at roughly $80 trillion in nominal terms for 2017.

Today’s chart from HowMuch.net uses this data to show all major economies in a visualization called a Voronoi diagram – let’s dive into the stats to learn more.

Here are the world’s top 10 economies, which together combine for a whopping two-thirds of global GDP.

In nominal terms, the US still has the largest GDP at $19.4 trillion, making up 24.4% of the world economy.

While China’s economy is far behind in nominal terms at $12.2 trillion, you may recall that the Chinese economy has been the world’s largest when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) since 2016.

The next two largest economies are Japan ($4.9 trillion) and Germany ($4.6 trillion) – and when added to the U.S. and China, the top four economies combined account for over 50% of the world economy.

Source: WEF