PM statement tonight, 15 October:

“With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House ahead of this week’s European Council.

We are entering the final stages of these negotiations.

This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail.

And it is the time for a clear-eyed focus on the few remaining but critical issues that are still to be agreed.

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union went to Brussels for further talks with Michel Barnier.

There has inevitably been a great deal of inaccurate speculation.

So, I want to set out clearly for the House, the facts as they stand.

First, we have made real progress in recent weeks on both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on our future relationship.

And I want to pay tribute to both negotiating teams for the many, many hours of hard work that have got us to this point.

In March, we agreed legal text around the implementation period, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.

And we have now made good progress on text concerning the majority of the outstanding issues.

Taken together, the shape of a deal across the vast majority of the withdrawal agreement – the terms of our exit – are now clear.

We also have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the framework for our future relationship, with progress on issues like security, transport and services.

And perhaps, most significantly, we have made progress on Northern Ireland – where, Mr Speaker, the EU have been working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had on their original proposals.

Mr Speaker, let me remind the House why this is so important.

Both the UK and the EU share a profound responsibility to ensure the preservation of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, protecting the hard won peace and stability in Northern Ireland and ensuring that life continues essentially as it does now.

We agree that our future economic partnership should provide for solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland in the long term.

And, while we are both committed to ensuring that this future relationship is in place by the end of the implementation period, we accept that there is a chance that there may be a gap between the two.

This is what creates the need for a backstop to ensure that, if such a temporary gap were ever to arise, there would be no hard-border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – or indeed anything that would threaten the integrity of our precious union.

So this backstop is intended to be an insurance policy for people of Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Previously, the European Union had proposed a backstop that would see Northern Ireland carved-off in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market, separated through a border in the Irish Sea from the UK’s own internal market.

As I have said many times, I could never accept that, no matter how unlikely such a scenario may be.

Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would mean a fundamental change in the day-to-day experience for businesses in Northern Ireland – with the potential to affect jobs and investment.

We published our proposals on customs in the backstop in June, and after Salzburg, I said we would bring forward our own further proposals – and that is what we have done in these negotiations.

And the European Union have responded positively by agreeing to explore a UK-wide customs solution to this backstop.

But Mr Speaker, two problems remain.

First, the EU says there is not time to work out the detail of this UK-wide solution in the next few weeks.

So even with the progress we have made, the EU still requires a “backstop to the backstop” – effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy.

And they want this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that they had previously proposed.

We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom.

And I am sure the whole House shares the government’s view on this.

Indeed, the House of Commons set out its view when agreeing unanimously part 6, section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade Act) on a single United Kingdom customs territory.

This states:

“It shall be unlawful for Her Majesty’s Government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.”

So, Mr Speaker, this message is clear – not just from this government, but from this whole House.

Second, Mr Speaker, I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say this backstop is a temporary solution.

People are rightly concerned that what is only meant to be temporary could become a permanent limbo – with no new relationship between the UK and the EU ever agreed.

I am clear we are not going to be trapped permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals.

So it must be the case, first, that the backstop should not need to come into force.

Second, that if it does, it must be temporary.

And third – while I do not believe this will be the case – if the EU were not to co-operate on our future relationship, we must be able to ensure that we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely.

I would not expect this House to agree to a deal unless we have the reassurance that the UK, as a sovereign nation, has this say over our arrangements with the EU.

Mr Speaker, I do not believe the UK and the EU are far apart.

We both agree that Article 50 cannot provide the legal basis for a permanent relationship.

And we both agree this backstop must be temporary.

So we must now work together to give effect to that agreement.

Mr Speaker, so much of these negotiations are necessarily technical.

But the reason this all matters is because it affects the future of our country.

It affects jobs and livelihoods in every community. It is about what kind of country we are and about our faith in our democracy.

Of course, it is frustrating that almost all of the remaining points of disagreement are focused on how we manage a scenario which both sides hope should never come to pass – and which if it does, will only be temporary.

We cannot let this disagreement derail the prospects of a good deal and leave us with the no deal outcome that no-one wants.

I continue to believe that a negotiated deal is the best outcome for the UK and for the European Union.

I continue to believe that such a deal is achievable.

And that is the spirit in which I will continue to work with our European partners.

And I commend this Statement to the House”.

Read the article here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-brexit-15-october-2018

Bono, the frontman of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign, visited the European Parliament on 10 October.

“Europe is an amazing romantic idea, that we speak in so many different languages but with one voice,” said Bono during the visit. At the Parliament he met President Antonio Tajani and Parliament’s political group leaders.

People are nervous about increasing nationalism. I am exited about increasing internationalism”.

The One campaign is an international organisation that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

The M26 in Kent is being shut overnight while work is done to see if it can be used as a “parking lot” for lorries, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat questioned why work began with “no consultation” – despite assurances none was planned.

He has warned the work would “create chaos” in the surrounding area.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed the work was part of “no-deal” contingency planning but said he thought it would not be needed.

The M26 will be closed overnight, from 2200 BST until 0530 BST until 15 October and again between 19 November and 21 December.

Sections of the M20 in Kent can be closed under Operation Stack, when lorries are forced to queue because of disruption to rail or ferry journeys.

And there have been concerns that a no-deal Brexit could mean lorries getting stuck at the nearby port of Dover because of customs delays.

Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, which covers the eastern half of the 10-mile long M26, told the Commons he had been assured that works were not planned as recently as last week – only to find out on Wednesday night that they were going ahead.

He told MPs: “It’s come to a pretty pass when a member finds out that works have begun on a motorway to turn that motorway into a parking lot without consultation either with the local community or with surrounding members.

“The M26 works started last night. I wrote (to Mr Grayling) in April, asking whether or not this would happen.

“I was assured the works were not planned and only yesterday (Wednesday) was it confirmed to me that Highways England had said that is exactly what was planned, despite having told me the reverse a week earlier.”

Mr Grayling replied that he would be happy to meet the MP to discuss the issue, but added: “I do not expect any of the contingencies that we have in place for a no-deal Brexit to be needed because I’m confident we will reach a sensible agreement.”

A spokesman for Highways England said: “As part of wider resilience planning, Highways England has been asked by the Department for Transport to develop plans to utilise the M26 to hold heavy goods vehicles, should further capacity be required in the future.

“We will be undertaking site surveys on the M26 during October leading to the installation of two gates in the central reservation to support the safe management of freight in the future, if needed.”

Operation Stack is currently used on closed sections of the M20 in Kent, where lorries park while waiting to cross the English Channel when traffic is disrupted.

A new strategy, Operation Brock, due to start in early 2019, plans to use a contraflow to keep the roads open when problems arise.

Source: BBC News

British and European Union officials are locked in talks in Brussels over a compromise Brexit deal that could see the U.K. remain temporarily in the EU’s customs regime, people familiar with the negotiations said.

With just a week before a crucial summit of EU leaders that could determine the outcome of Brexit, officials from each side are wrangling over a potential solution to the biggest sticking point: how to keep the Irish border free from customs infrastructure. The U.K. is now unlikely to present any fresh proposals publicly and negotiators have not waited for one, the people said.

U.K. and EU diplomats said that intense negotiating over the next five days could result in a provisional agreement on the issue Monday. However, while there is positive momentum, many issues remain unresolved, they said.

“Decisive progress must be made” before next week’s summit, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said a deal is “within reach” if talks advance in time for next week.

The negotiations are focusing on the so-called “backstop” for the Irish border – an insurance clause to make sure that whatever future trade deal is eventually drawn up between the two sides, no hard border will go up on the island of Ireland. It would only apply as a last resort in case an overarching trade deal doesn’t address the issue.

Under the U.K.’s latest plan, Theresa May’s government would back down on opposition to new regulatory checks on some items moving between the British mainland and Northern Ireland. In exchange, May’s team would need the EU to compromise and allow the whole of the U.K., not just Northern Ireland, to stay in the bloc’s customs regime.

That’s thrown up legal problems that the negotiators say must be resolved if there’s to be a deal. EU officials say only Northern Ireland-specific solutions can be part of the Brexit divorce agreement. U.K.-wide provisions must form part of the wider political declaration on the two side’s future relationship, but that’s not legally binding.

One solution floated by officials is to have only the regulatory checks element — relating to items such as food and livestock moving across the Irish Sea — to be set out in detail in the divorce agreement, officials said. There would be a legally binding reference to the customs arrangement, which would be described in more detail in the declaration on future ties.

The U.K. believes it can argue for different treatment of the two types of checks by saying that regulatory controls are a matter for the quasi-autonomous Northern Ireland assembly, while customs arrangements remain the prerogative of the central government in London.

In London on Tuesday, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab indicated he still favored separating the customs regime from the regulatory checks. When pressed on his stance on the backstop during a question-and-answer session in Parliament, Raab said there mustn’t be a customs border between different parts of the U.K. — but that answer leaves the door open to a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

The minister also underlined the U.K.’s demand that any backstop agreement to stay in the bloc’s customs rules must be strictly time-limited, something the EU is reluctant to accept. “We have been clear that the backstop would need to be a temporary and finite bridge to the future relationship,” Raab told lawmakers.

In addition to the Irish border issue, negotiators are also working on other outstanding issues in the divorce treaty, including the protection of geographical origin labels on products such as Champagne and Parma ham and a regime to settle disputes arising from the deal, as well as a draft of the declaration on the future relationship.

You can read the article here: Brexit Talks Zero In on U.K. Customs Fix Amid Deal Optimism

Source: Bloomberg

BBC News has written article about Trusted Trader concept and its potential role in a post-Brexit trade environment.

It is an interesting article and it does describe only one view on Trusted Trader and AEO, but it misses an important point. UK doesn’t have to use the same AEO programme as EU post-Brexit. In fact, UK shouldn’t. It should develop an own modern multitier Trusted Trader programme.

Having lead the work of inventing the Trusted Trader Concept, and the AEO Standard in the WCO Safe Framework, and being involved in the devlopment of the EU AEO and US C T-PAT models – and after that another plus 50 AEO and TTPs all around the world, I can say that this article only describes one view of TT and it also has several errors.

The EU AEO model is a legacy system that is 10 years old and it is only one of the approx. 80 programmes that are operational in the world for the moment. Modern Trusted Trader Programmes/AEO models are very different from the EU AEO, while still meeting the WCO Standard. The concept is in very fast development, bringing lower thresholds to get in, faster validation, considerbly more benefits, new ways of ensurimg compliance and low risk, more self-assessment, new KPIs and Performance Measurement models and multiagency and stakeholder reach embracing all border agencies/all supply chain stakeholders in single Government Trusted Trader concepts. This is already happening.

Nothing prevents UK from developing a new modern mulititier Trusted Trader programme (incl the present AEO).

Here is the link to the BBC article: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45813901

Jacques Gounon, President of Getlink that operated the Eurotunnel, wrote an interesting article yesterday about the views of the company.

Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom agitated commentators on both sides of the Channel.

For Eurotunnel, Brexit will be a matter of technologies and people: it will be an opportunity for us to gain competitiveness and efficiency for our customers. We were the first to let the various political actors know how important this vital link is and the challenge of a smooth border for jobs and economies – not just on the British side.

We set ourselves in motion to integrate the additional controls that will apply to the customs, veterinary and police authorities already present on our terminals. And that these controls are integrated in the customer journey in a “smart border”.

Border control remains the sole responsibility of States. Even if the negotiations in Brussels are crucial, these provisions will be covered by binational agreements. Whether we are in a Schengen / non Schengen configuration as currently, or tomorrow Schengen / third country (UK), the post-Brexit situation is not new for the public services concerned.

In fact, the French government is preparing to put in place, before 29 March 2019, the legal tool enabling it to take the measures that would be necessary in the event of a withdrawal agreement. The enabling bill presented on October 3 by Jean-Yves Le Drian and Nathalie Loiseau allows France to prepare effectively for the consequences of Brexit. In the same vein, Gerald Darmanin announced the creation of 700 additional customs posts to cope with any additional activity at Eurotunnel, ports and airports.

We have an accurate and realistic view of how we will start transformations as soon as the political vision is clarified. We have not waited to increase our hosting capacity and our customer service for two years. We are preparing for all contingencies to ensure continuity of service.

Eurotunnel is preparing with calm, method and determination to the new elements that will intervene in the management of the border between March 2019 and the year 2021 taking into account different scenarios.

Source: LinkeIn/Machine translation