Counting the days to Article 50 (Old News again).
Deloitte apologises for Brexit memo.
A consultancy firm has apologised to the government for the "disruption" caused by a leaked memo that suggested ministers had no plan for Brexit. Deloitte said it regretted the publication, adding it had proposed a plan "to put this matter behind us". The Times reported this included an agreement not to bid for government contracts for six months. Downing Street dismissed the memo when it was published last month, saying it had been unsolicited. The document claimed "well over 500 projects" were being undertaken by Whitehall departments to implement Brexit, creating the need for up to 30,000 extra civil servants, and highlighted "divisions" within government over the strategy. Its publication in The Times generated a backlash from No 10, which said it "wholeheartedly" rejected the comments it contained, and Deloitte played down the memo's significance. Five weeks on, the company has said: "Deloitte regrets the publication of the two-page note, and has apologised for the unintended disruption it caused government. The note was for internal audiences and was not a Deloitte point of view. We have put forward a plan for working with central government to put this matter behind us." Downing Street did not dispute The Times' report that the agreement involved Deloitte not bidding for government contracts for six months, but the company declined to comment on any withdrawal from such bids.
May Christmas message urges unity after Brexit vote.
Theresa May has urged Britain to "unite and move forward" after the Brexit vote in her first Christmas message as PM. In the year that saw the UK vote by 52% to 48% to leave the EU, Mrs May said there was an "historic opportunity" to forge "a bold new role". However, UKIP's Paul Nuttall used his Christmas message to call for faster progress on Brexit in 2017. Labour's Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the plight of the homeless while Lib Dem Tim Farron focused on child refugees. The Green Party urged people to fight for a future based on equality and hope in its Christmas message. The prime minister said there had been much to celebrate in 2016 - with the Queen's 90th birthday and British successes in the Olympics and Paralympics. She added: "As we leave the European Union we must seize an historic opportunity to forge a bold new role for ourselves in the world and to unite our country as we move forward into the future." She pledged to "stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practise their beliefs in peace and safety" and paid tribute to those who work over Christmas, including health and care workers, emergency services and the armed forces. "Wherever you are this Christmas, I wish you joy and peace in this season of celebration, along with health and happiness in the year ahead," she said.
Pro-Brexit group calls for EU free trade deal.
Campaigners for a "hard" Brexit have asked business groups across Europe to put pressure on their governments for a free trade agreement with Britain. Leave Means Leave has written to the chambers of commerce in all the other 27 EU states, asking them to call for a "sensible agreement regarding the terms of Britain's exit from the EU". The letter warns that trade barriers would have a "detrimental effect". It also calls for uninterrupted trade as well as near-zero tariffs. The letter was written by Leave Means Leave co-chairs Richard Tice and John Longworth, the former British Chambers of Commerce director-general. The group wants to ensure Brexit means the UK is no longer a member of the EU's single market. They said there were "many important elections taking place in EU member states" next year. "Businesses across Europe will want trade with the UK to continue as usual after Brexit and any hint of trade barriers by the European Commission will be rejected," they wrote. "It is vital that these business leaders make representations to their national governments to ensure that the EU is open for business." Mr Longworth told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK would prosper outside the EU as it sought free trade agreements with partners around the world. "This word 'access' I find curious - everybody has access to the EU single market; the US and China send billions of stuff to the EU every year," he added. "It doesn't actually matter if we leave the single market and there are tariffs because they are on average 3.5% for manufactured goods, but it's better for everybody if there is a smooth trading relationship."
Brexit: Civil service faces 'bumpy ride' says union leader.
The civil service faces a "bumpy ride" making Brexit happen while dealing with other priorities, the union leader who represents Whitehall staff has warned. Dave Penman, from the FDA union, said more resources were needed or ministers would have to rethink other goals. "Something is going to have to give, and it is not going to be Brexit," he told the Guardian newspaper. The Foreign Office and International Trade department were given extra money in last month's Autumn Statement. The new trade ministry, which is taking over a number of responsibilities from the business department and Foreign Office, is to get an extra £79.4m over the next four years, while the Foreign Office was given extra money to recruit trade policy experts within its diplomatic network. However, other departments face budget cuts at a time when implementing the decision to leave the EU is likely to increase their workload. In the Guardian interview, Mr Penman - general secretary of the First Division Association which has 19,000 members - said the civil service was used to coping in a challenging financial environment but suggested the "unique complexity" of Brexit was likely to put a strain on Whitehall. "The civil service is either going to have to be given more resources to deal with Brexit and its usual work or it will have to change its priorities," he said. "And government doesn't want to admit to either."
All details above from BBC News website.
[So, negotiations are off until after the June election. I guess that makes sense not knowing who’s going to win and what the fallout will be if the Tories don’t win as many seats as they seem to need to overturn the objections clearly coming from inside their own party. I do find it instructive how much the PM is whining on about the need to have more power to enable her to negotiate with the EU from a position of strength – as if having a bigger majority in Parliament with have any influence at all on European leaders! He real message is that she’s not carrying her party or the rest of the Commons with her and wants us, the electorate, to give her a mandate to overrule as many people as she needs to in order to get her agenda through – because as we all know brute power and the destruction of opposition is how Democracy works these days.]