Peter Foster Profile picture
Public Policy Editor at the Financial Times. Formerly Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi for the Telegraph. Opinions my own.
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25 Sep
So. Fascinating 'come on' to Brussels from @JGForsyth in his Times column today...saying a deal is within "touching distance".

That's optimistic (on substance) but interesting to see UK pushing for a 'tunnel' - and "pitch-rolling" to backbenches 1/…
@JGForsyth So first the 'come on' - Per UK side to JG "we really need to begin the intensive talks to resolve the final tricky issues."

There is talk of an October 'tunnel' before EUCO - but ONLY if UK a) UK restores trust after law-breaking threats & b) and landing zone is in sight /2 Image
@JGForsyth So on the 'trust' front there are signs that UK realises that it totally overcooked it - but "the gun remains on the table". So before a tunnel something still needs to be done on that - like agree that the over-write "notwithstanding clauses" fall in ping-pong. /3
Read 18 tweets
24 Sep
Absolutely glowing @MakeUK_ statement from Manufacturers boss Stephen Phipson on @RishiSunak #COVID19 statement. Seems to have hit the spot.
@MakeUK_ @RishiSunak And more of the same from British Chambers of Commerce @BCCAdam here /2
@MakeUK_ @RishiSunak @BCCAdam And the aviation/aerospace groups @ADSgroupUK also welcoming, with caveats...echoed by MakeUK also. /3
Read 5 tweets
23 Sep
Fandango over need for “permit” to drive to Kent after brexit via @FT but as one insider tells me, it’s an empty vessel of a system.../1
The SmartFreight isn’t that “smart” - the only data you input, I’m told, is your vehicle reg number. Otherwise it’s yes/no answers. /2
So one Q is: Do you have an MRN [Movement reference number] from an import declaration or TAD? [Transit Accompanying Document]

Answer yes/no.

Then “continue”

Apparently it’s not actually linked to anything. Just a declaration. /3
Read 9 tweets
23 Sep
A bushy-tailed @michaelgove now giving statement to Parliament on the #brexit border, "we need businesses to prepare" to make the most of the "opportunities" of leaving the EU single market.…
@michaelgove Still "plenty of time to prepare" he adds.

And Border Force recruiting 1,000 extra staff, with 100s more on the way.

And a new SmartFreight web portal, and an Check Change GO info can see it here. Very inspiring.

Now @RachelReevesMP replies - and paints a rather different picture to the ebullient Mr Gove. Says the @RHARichardB and others are "tearing their hair out" at lack of government information and assistance. Urges govt to get a trade deal./
Read 5 tweets
18 Sep
So the fury continues about @borisjohnson threat to overwrite #Brexit withdrawal agreement...but the EU hasn't walked....and the shape of a Brexit deal is there to be done. The unanswered Q is whether the UK wants to do it - my latest via @ft 1/…
@BorisJohnson @FT It might seem like all is lost, but it is notable that @MichelBarnier is still talking - if only to make sure that the EU doesn't get the blame - and waiting and watching to see if UK moves to make a deal...the shape of which seems pretty obvious. It goes like this/2
@BorisJohnson @FT @MichelBarnier The UK does a deal to unlock a 'zero tariff, zero quota' Free Trade Agreement - which of course requires both sides to reach a deal on State Aid and level playing field...but the shape of that deal IS possible. See this @instituteforgov report for ideas/3…
Read 12 tweets
17 Sep
The frustrations of the logistics industry are starting to boil over - principally because the government and Whitehall are NOT getting the dynamics of the marketplace.

Why, if govt is offering £50m quid in grants, everyone's not flocking to open a customs shop?! Well... /1
The problem, industry says, is that the Treasury and @michaelgove really don't understand what is happening on the ground - they really do see this customs business as a wonderful opportunity and can't understand why industry isn't flinging itself at it. /2
@michaelgove You'll recall this much lampooned tweet from @cabinetofficeuk about it's commitment to investing in the red tape as I was saying, why is industry warning of such a shortage of capacity? Well, having talked to a bunch of operators.../3

Read 20 tweets
17 Sep
Intense clarity of thought, as ever , by @AntonSpisak unpicking the "blockade" issue in @prospect_uk
- one level petulant nonsense (with some fault on both sides) on another a serious indicator of lack of trust 1/thread…
@AntonSpisak @prospect_uk On the first "petulance" point, there is some blame on both sides.

The EU has been using 'third country' listing as leverage (some unnecessary gloating behind scenes here) but the talk of a "blockade" is wildly inflammatory spin from the UK side which has safeguards /2
@AntonSpisak @prospect_uk As Spisak points out - and I've been trying to point out - a "blockade" would violate Art 6 of the Protocol that requires "best endeavours" on NI-GB trade, but Art 16 offers even greater safeguards. /3
Read 10 tweets
16 Sep
All this talk of "concessions" and a parliamentary "lock" on the parts of #UKInternalMarketBill overriding the #Brexit withdrawal agreement smack of the Tory Party negotiating with itself.

It's a safety catch for the revolver...handed to a PM with an 80 seat majority! /1
It reminds me of the Chequers deal days when the Tory party congratulated itself for triangulating a position of customs that had no bearing to what EU could accept....this plan as reported by @GeorgeWParker and others feels similar /2…
@GeorgeWParker From an EU perspective you have to realise that sections 42 to 45 of the UKIM wholly disapply obligations of the Northern Irish Protocol. It is nuclear. (We are promised same for 'at risk' goods question in autumn Finance Bill). /3
Read 6 tweets
15 Sep
🚨🇬🇧🇪🇺🚢🚚🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🚨NEW: nearly 2/3 customs agents say they don’t have enough staff to handle coming border, per survey of @BIFA latest via @FT and why companies are struggling to prepare. 1/thread
@BIFA @FT I'm not going to rehears entire border issues again (see threads passim) but a couple of key takeaways

1) #Covid19 has made it worse

2) companies still need details; Border Operating Model in July has not answered many Qs

(full release @BIFA here)/2…
@BIFA @FT So as Robert Keen @BIFA_DG tells me, in a survey back in May "only" 50% of members said they'd be short of staff - now its 64% - which tallies with members raising concerns on Covid-19 /3
Read 20 tweets
14 Sep
The @BorisJohnson statement on the #UKinternalmarketbill will not reassure anyone in Brussels I suspect - the PM recognises the Arbritration function of WA and the power of Article 16 of the protocol - but STILL wants a comprehensive 'opt out' given under Section 45 of the bill/1 Image
@BorisJohnson So it seems we're still in a position where we're prepared to use the mechanisms available, but only if we have the nuclear option in our back pocket./2

@BorisJohnson If this 'blockade materialised, it is clear that Article 16 is sufficient - indeed it sets the bar only on "diversion of trade"...the entire argument about the need to have a redress mechanism that obviates the mechanisms acknowledged, seems self-evidently confected /3
Read 4 tweets
12 Sep
These are desperate times, but clinging to any strands of hope @BorisJohnson sets up so many outrageous straw men you could - just about - see it as creating the space for a deal 1/…
@BorisJohnson The hyperbolic "blockade" he mentions is driven the the fact that the Protocol (that he signed, I know) says that IF the two sides can't agree which goods are 'at risk' of going across the border into the Single Market then the default is that all of them are /2
@BorisJohnson This has arguable allowed the EU to be lazy - play hardball - since it can always fall back on the default.

The Internal Market Bill moves to close this avenue off - which in theory could change that negotiating dynamic, but in the process has just blown the negotiations up. /3
Read 15 tweets
10 Sep
As #Brexit trade negs head for rocks, the focus on the 'Internal Market Bill was all on the 'notwithstanding' clauses - but the bill's REAL bombs were also on the devolution settlements - See here @FF explainer with me, @MureDickie @PickardJE 1/…
@ff @MureDickie @PickardJE And if we are heading inexorably for a 'no deal' exit in January, then the political context for UK is even more important ahead of Scottish parliament elections next May /2
@ff @MureDickie @PickardJE To recap, leaving the EU means that the UK 'internal market' is not longer undergirded by EU rules/directives/law.... that power is transferred to Westminster...and that means friction. Just as Brexiters hate Brussels, so Scottish/Welsn nationalists will chafe at W'minster rule/3
Read 12 tweets
9 Sep
#Brexit things are getting ugly.

This @michaelgove statement about his call with @MarosSefcovic basically amounts, in EU eyes, to: "that’s a nice treaty you have here. Shame if anything happened to it” /1
@michaelgove @MarosSefcovic The British Government reiterates its "commitment" to the Irish Protocol in one breath, while legislating to re-write it in the other - IF it doesn't get the outcome it wants in the Joint Committee negotiation. /2
@michaelgove @MarosSefcovic Mr Gove "hoped Joint Committee discussions would reach a satisfactory conclusion"...

Given move in UK Internal Market Bill, how can that sound anything other than a threat.

Understand call with Sefcovic was "very tense". I bet. /3
Read 7 tweets
9 Sep
Robert Hardy @RobHardyFR8 says lots of good customs training available but as he explains: “Buying a cookbook doesn’t make you a Michelin-starred chef.”

Select Cmme now hearing about #Brexit border preps...or lack thereof!…
@RobHardyFR8 .@AnnaJerzewska says “There are going to be delays. That’s not being negative. That’s just the reality of it.”

Now being asked to rank 0-100 % chance of "chaos in Kent".. /2
@RobHardyFR8 @AnnaJerzewska Richard Burnett @RHARichardB says "80% chance" on chaos in Kent

Robert Hardy @RobHardyFR8 "more than 50/50 of delays in Kent...not sure it's chaos, but not good"

@AnnaJerzewska says "70 or 80%, at least short term (weeks)....until business finds a way to trade" /3
Read 5 tweets
9 Sep
Good Morning. It's #Brexit "break the law day" today.

So question (1): what does it mean? Is it serious?

And question (2) for the EU: "waddaya gonna do abaat it? Punk." 1/Thread
So in answer to Q1, it IS serious.

Serious enough for the UK's top government lawyer to resign in principle over the government plans. As me and @SebastianEPayne report here. But why SO serious? /2…
@SebastianEPayne Because this is NOT "tidying up loose ends", its a flagrant move to unilaterally define a *mutually agreed* treaty (the Northern Ireland Protocol) in the event of a 'no deal'.

Officials call it a "safety net" but then, if it's so benign ,why did Jonathan Jones quit? /3
Read 20 tweets
8 Sep
Just to take a step back for a moment. The Irish Protocol was designed to protect the all-Ireland economy and peace process after #brexit.

It was an "all weather" vehicle, designed to withstand precisely the storm of a 'no deal' - that's its point 1/thread
It was a very deliberately constructed insurance policy.

So the Government's apparent attempts to re-write it, pare it back is like an insurance company trying to wheedle out of a pre-agreed policy, as @GeorgePeretzQC has observed. /2
@GeorgePeretzQC That cannot BUT have impact on the trust levels between the parties when they come to sign a new insurance policy - this time in regards of the Level Playing Field needed as the basis for the EU giving the UK 'zero tariff, zero quota' access to the Single Market. /3
Read 17 tweets
6 Sep
NEW: 🚨🚨🚨🇬🇧🇪🇺🚨🚨🚨UK planning legislation to override key parts of #brexit withdrawal treaty and Northern Ireland protocol - a potentially HUGE move in negotiations; major ructions in Whitehall - my latest via @FT
@FT Per three sources with knowledge of plans the UK Internal Market bill (due on Weds) and this autumn's Finance Bill will contain clauses that “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement”. The EU are unlikely to like this - which I guess is the point /2
@FT Given @MichelBarnier
insistence on the "precise implementation" of the Withdrawal Agreement, the decision to legislate in a way that dilutes those obligations - on State Aid, export summary declarations and tariffs - is not likely to go down well with the EU /3
Read 20 tweets
3 Sep
Logistics & customs industries firing distress flares now over pace of #brexit border preps.

Demanding urgent high-level meeting with ⁦@michaelgove⁩ ⁦@RishiSunak⁩ ⁦@grantshapps⁩ via @FT 1/thread
@michaelgove @RishiSunak @grantshapps @FT First the letter itself - short but sweet - and important to note that it comes from the experts. The groups that actually move stuff and do stuff. I am not an expert, I can only report their concerns - which they are clearly now escalating. /2
@michaelgove @RishiSunak @grantshapps @FT There are also other signatories to that letter - including some household name logistics companies - for which discretion is the better part of valour.

But they are deeply worried on three counts:
1) IT not being ready
2) Biz having no time to adjust
3) Govt not listening /3
Read 14 tweets
2 Sep
All this. All the predictions of costs of no deal (GDP -5% to -8% smaller than otherwise) are smoothed out over 10 years. But they don’t tell you about disproportionate, concentrated impact on key industries (food, cars, chem, meds) in key (red wall) areas. 1/
When you ask modellers why it’s smoothed out, it’s precisely because localised impacts are so difficult to predict as industries suffer micro-fractures in supply chains when, say, a chemical or an ingredient becomes economically unviable. /2
Even when you ask people in these industries what’s gonna happen in a ‘no deal’ they struggle to tell you. Downstream and knock-on impacts, and how fast industry and consumers adapt to these are really hard to guess. /3
Read 5 tweets
21 Aug
You can read @MichelBarnier remarks on Round 7 of the UK-EU trade talks here (FR and EN).

Tl;dr. This sentence - paring back the 'ask' won't move EU stance on a need for level playing field - like it or not /1… Image
@MichelBarnier The UK is deeply frustrated by this.

Why should it sign up to any such guarantees for a super-skinny, nay, emaciated, FTA?

But the EU have been banging on about this since the start - recall the March 2018 mandate.

Nothing if not consistent /2… Image
@MichelBarnier The mood music is pretty ugly.

Technically, you can see landing zones on State Aid.

But fundamentally, the UK strategy (pare back the 'ask' until the EU caves) is potentially a risk for an 'accidental' no deal...

This @AntonSpisak gets at the issue /3…
Read 9 tweets
20 Aug
NEW: Welsh Brexit Minister @Jeremy_Miles absolutely roasts Biz sec Alok Sharma @AlokSharma_RDG over plans UK internal market bill - warns it will "accelerate the break up" of the UK - this is VERY strong language from pro Union welsh govt /1 Thread…
@Jeremy_Miles @AlokSharma_RDG Just to re-cap quickly, after #Brexit transition ends the UK will no longer be following all those rules and directives from Brussels so will need to set its own rules to create consistency across the UK's internal market...but that will cut across Scottish & Welsh powers /2
@Jeremy_Miles @AlokSharma_RDG When govt published White Paper last month @AlokSharma_RDG said it was necessary to bring "clarity and certainty" for business...but the Scottish and Welsh govts said it was an outrageous "power grab" /3…
Read 20 tweets