• Business fears rise for Brexit rollover trade pacts (FT): The government today confirmed that there is no prospect of rolling over trade deals with Japan or Turkey by 29 March in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Department of International Trade today issued guidance following the announcement which can be found here. Business community responses were critical with Nicole Sykes, head of EU negotiations at the CBI saying, “The government is only letting businesses know now . . . We are really concerned that firms could be blindsided by it” and Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, commenting, “yet another example where politicians have overpromised and underdelivered — and it is businesses and consumers . . . that will pay the price.”
  • Chancellor says no-deal threat is encouraging compromise (BBC): Phillip Hammond said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is “focusing minds” while calling such an outcome “very bad”. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn met Michel Barnier in Brussels today to discuss his proposals for a permanent customs union and a close relationship with the single market. He also again accused the prime minister of “running down the clock”. Speaking after a meeting with Mr Barnier, Mr Corbyn urged Theresa May to “take the threat of no deal off the table”, adding that the EU was “very worried about the consequences of it”.
  • Theresa May faces ministerial backlash over no-deal Brexit (Guardian): The Guardian reports that as many as 25 members of her government are ready to vote for a Brexit delay next week unless the prime minister rules out a no-deal Brexit. The alleged rebels are understood to prepared to back the motion proposed by the Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper, due to be debated on Wednesday. A senior source close to those plotting the rebellion said there was no way the members of the government would resign voluntarily and May would have to sack them.
  • Prime minister seeks to prevent further Tory resignations (FT): Justine Greening and Philip Lee, two Tory MPs who are seen as among the most likely to join the new Independent Group in the House of Commons, were both invited to meet Mrs May at Downing Street. Hours earlier Ms Greening said she would resign from the Conservative party if the government sought to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. She added that she had not been granted a meeting with the prime minister despite requesting one “multiple times”. Mrs May’s outreach underlines the potentially serious threat posed by the Independent Group, formed by eight former Labour MPs and three former Tories this week. The government’s working majority is now just nine, meaning that it could lose a vote if the Democratic Unionist party’s 10 MPs abstained. In a letter to the three former Tory MPs — Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston — on Thursday, the prime minister said she hoped to “work together on issues where we agree”. “Under my leadership the Conservative party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve,” she said in her letter.
  • UK Competition regulator questions Brexit competition legislation (MLex): Legislation setting out the link between UK and European competition law in the event of a no-deal Brexit has unknown implications and may result in litigation, a UK regulator has said. Ann Pope, a director at the Competition & Markets Authority, said a clause setting out the grounds on which the UK authorities can diverge from European law offers a “broad get-out.” The text for a new clause, to be implemented in the event of a no-deal Brexit states that the courts and the CMA must “have regard” to the EU treaties and the decisions of the bloc’s courts and the European Commission as they stood before Brexit day — but they can diverge from this where “appropriate” on one of six grounds. These grounds include: differences between the UK and EU markets; developments in the economy since Brexit; and post-Brexit decisions of the EU Court of Justice. A regulator can also break with pre-Brexit law in light of “the particular circumstances under consideration.” The UK authorities can also take into account the “generally accepted” principles of competition law — grounds that Pope acknowledged are “woolly.” “I can’t honestly say to you I know exactly what that means,” she told a conference in Brussels. “Maybe I’ll know it when I see it on a case. There is potential for litigation definitely over that.”