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What the papers say: How to make the Brexit bill work

5 September 2017

8:43 AM

5 September 2017

8:43 AM

Urgency is badly needed in Brexit talks, says the Sun. So the paper welcomes Theresa May saying that ‘both sides have to put more hours in’. It’s been a surprise that, up until now, ‘only a week each month’ has been dedicated to meeting face-to-face, says the paper – which makes the lack of progress ‘small wonder’. Now, things need to change: companies based in Britain are looking for reassurances. And even the likes of Nick Clegg, who the paper refers to as one of the EU’s ‘most slavish UK cheerleaders’, wants Brussels’ bureaucrats to show some flexibility and allow trade talks to start. ‘The clock is ticking’, warns the Sun, so two things need to happen. Firstly, the Sun says, Theresa May must ‘cut to the chase and personally address Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’. Once this is done, both sides in Brexit talks should insist on ‘several days of negotiations every week’, the paper concludes.

The FT meanwhile takes a harder line on the UK government, warning that the Brexit divorce bill is putting progress in talks at risk. The paper says that while there has been a ‘ distinct shift in the UK government’s approach to Brexit’ over the summer, which has seen ministers soften their tone, we still remain badly need of a ‘breakthrough’. The latest talks have, once again, made clear the ‘gulf between the UK and EU positions’. ‘The main sticking point is the divorce bill’, says the FT. This was always going to be a ‘tricky’ subject – after all, the money sent by Britain to Brussels ‘has been a neuralgic issue for Eurosceptics’ for a generation. But the paper is worried that even with this in mind things are becoming ‘so acrimonious’ quickly. It’s a simple fact, according to the FT, that there remains an answer to what is essentially a ‘soluble problem’. Yes, the EU is on ‘shaky ground’ with some of its demands. But the ‘UK should pay its share’ still and both sides need to realise that the way to make the Brexit bill palatable is to ‘link it to the transition that most now agree to be desirable’. The EU, in particular, must recognise the need to link the payment to ’future trading arrangements’.

The Brexit bill isn’t the only topic weighing on the government’s mind. With Parliament back from recess, Thursday sees the second reading of the EU withdrawal bill. For the Guardian, this bill is little more than a ‘cynical power-grab’, with the government’s proposal for transplanting EU law into UK law after Brexit a ‘colossal affront’ to Parliament. ‘The contentious device’, says the Guardian, ‘is the deployment of “Henry VIII powers”’, which will make laws that ’bypass scrutiny altogether and take effect automatically’ in some cases. The government has done its best to placate critics by setting a ‘sunset clause’ – meaning that ‘the scope to make new regulations would expire two years’ after Brexit. But worryingly, says the Guardian, ‘that date is not stipulated in the bill’. What’s more, a two year time period would still give ‘ample time for a sweeping power to be misused’ points out the paper. ‘For those who value Britain’s historic ties to the EU there is plenty to hate about current government policy’, the Guardian says. But even in this context, the EU withdrawal bill is worthy of special mention, given that it ‘tramples on parliament’s supremacy even in the act of pretending to restore its sovereignty’.

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