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Banking on services deal

(left) and Michel Barnier; and
(below) Theresa May
NEGOTIATIONS: David Davis (left) and Michel Barnier; and (below) Theresa May


BRITAIN wants to include financial servic­es in a trade deal with the European Union which covers a full sweep of economic ar­eas, Brexit minister David Davis said on Tuesday (2).  

Any deal that left finance out would be “cherry picking”, Davis said, after the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier cast doubt on the inclusion of financial services in a free-trade deal.  

“We are looking at the full sweep of eco­nomic cooperation that currently exists and determining how that can be maintained with the minimum additional barriers or friction,” Davis wrote in a national newspa­per, adding that the principles of a trade deal in goods could be applied to services too.  

“I do not believe the strength of this coop­eration needs change because we are leaving the European Union, so long as it is under­stood that this involves working together, not simply rule taking. These principles can be applied to services trade too,” he added.  

Last month, Barnier said he was not aware of any free-trade deal the EU had concluded which included unfettered access for finan­cial services.  

Davis’s comments follow prime minister Theresa May’s New Year message in which she said 2018 would be a year of “renewed confidence and pride” for Britain.

May said 2017 had been a year of progress for Britain as it struck agreement on its de­parture bill, Northern Ireland and the rights of EU citizens, in the first phase of tricky Brexit negotiations.  

Divorce talks between London and Brus­sels are set to move on to transition arrange­ments, trade and security next year as Britain prepares to leave the EU in March 2019.  

“I believe 2018 can be a year of renewed confidence and pride in our country,” May said. “A year in which we continue to make good progress towards a successful Brexit deal, an economy that’s fit for the future, and a stronger and fairer society for everyone.”  

“And whatever challenges we may face, I know we will overcome them by standing united as one proud union of nations and people,” she added.  

However, the British Chambers of Com­merce, which represents thousands of firms across the country, warned that business was losing patience waiting for clarity on what will happen once Britain leaves the EU.  

“That patience is now wearing thin. Busi­nesses want answers,” director general Adam Marshall said last Sunday (31).  

“Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity – after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganisa­tion,” Marshall added.  

The prime minister described the past year as one of progress in which her Brexit objectives had been pursued with a steady purpose “Making a success of Brexit is cru­cial, but it will not be the limit of our ambi­tions,” she said.  

May said she wanted a “balanced ap­proach” to public spending, reducing Brit­ain’s debt pile while investing in schools, hospitals and state healthcare.  

She also wanted to sweep harassment from the workplace and “eliminate all preju­dice and discrimination from our society”.  

Internationally, she said Britain would work to tackle extremism, climate change and plastic waste in the oceans.  

Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prospect of a “new Britain” was “closer than ever before”.  

“We are a government in waiting, while the Conserva­tives are weak and divided and stuck in an outdated rut,” he said.  

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable used his new year mes­sage to push for a second refer­endum on EU membership.  

“There is still time to offer people the choice of an exit from Brexit,” he said. (Reuters, AFP)