No time to lose, says City of London chief as May critic accuses her of broken promises

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-13 03:31:03|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

LONDON, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Theresa May's 98-page blueprint for a new relation between Britain and the European Union was greeted by mixed reactions Thursday in political and business circles.

May's newly appointed Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis earlier this week, told MPs in the House of Commons that May's detailed proposal for a principled, pragmatic and ambitious future partnership between the UK and the EU was in line with the policy agreed at her meeting last week. That was when her entire cabinet was called to a 12-hour meeting at her country retreat, Chequers.

Raab said: "It safeguards the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK. It reclaims the UK's sovereignty and it protects our economic interests by minimising the risk of any disruption to trade. It delivers on the instruction that we received loud and clear from the British people to take back control over our laws, our borders and our money."

But Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said the white paper's proposals for Britain's relations with the EU after Brexit were "a real blow for the UK's financial and related professional services sector".

She said: "With looser trade ties to Europe, the financial and related professional services sector will be less able to create jobs, generate tax and support growth across the wider economy. It's that simple. Time is running out so it is essential that the pace of negotiations accelerates to ensure an orderly Brexit."

There was a more favourable reaction to the proposals from Britain's biggest bosses organisation, the CBI.

Its director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: "The Brexit White Paper reflects much of the evidence that business has been highlighting since the referendum. This direction is welcome, protecting jobs and investment now and in future should be the guiding star for both sets of negotiators."

Fairbairn added: "Many of the intentions are reassuring. Seeking a free trade area for goods and a common rule book shows the Prime Minister has put pragmatism before politics and should be applauded.

She welcomed the proposal for shared rules between Britain and the EU, adding: "It is now the EU's turn to put economics before ideology on these proposals."

Fairbairn said it was vitally important UK negotiators get their heads down and work with businesses to grapple with the detail and get it right, adding "it will be a make or break summer".

Referring to the need for London and Brussels to agree a deal this fall, Fairbairn said: "With three months left to go, it is now a race against time. The EU must now engage constructively and flexibly, as must politicians from all UK parties. This is a matter of national interest. There's not a day to lose."

There were also hopeful soundings from the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier who said on his social media site: "We will now analyse the Brexite White Paper with member states and the European Parliament. He added: "Looking forward to negotiations with the UK next week."

One of the severest criticisms of May's proposals came from politician and potential-leadership contender Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a 60-strong group of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

He said: "The overall consequence (of the white paper) is that we will be a rule taker, de facto subject to the European Court of Justice and it's hard to believe that there is even a tinge of pink left in Mrs May's red line on this."

Rees-Mogg added: "It is hard to see that any of this meets the promises Mrs May made in her earlier speeches. We have not known such vassalage to the continent since King John paid homage to the King of France," a reference to events that happened more than 800 years ago in 1200.

He added: "Taken as a whole, this recreates many of the worst aspects of the EU the British people voted to leave. This does not respect the referendum result."

Media in London reported Thursday that Rees-Mogg and a number of Brexit-suppoting Conservative have said they will vote against the plan. It would mean May, who leads a minority government, relying on rebels from the main opposition Labour Party to win support in the House of Commons.

Labour's Brexit spokesman Kier Starmer told MPs: "Coming 15 months after article 50 was triggered, and just three months before the article 50 agreement is expected, the White Paper has obviously arrived very late in the day."

Referring to the events this week when the Brexit Secretary David Davis and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit, citing the proposals outlined by May at her meeting last Friday, Starmer said: The Chequers statement unravelled in two days. When the details of this White Paper are examined, there are very few reasons to believe it will not suffer the same fate."

May now has the task of convincing parliament and the EU member states that her proposals are workable.