Editor's Notes: Work on a trade deal has begun, even if the EU hasn’t noticed, Labour turns against the City of London Corporation and Art 4 Grenfell

Christian May
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Sensible people are already putting in the ground work for a deal (Source: Getty)

Another week, another round of the Brexit dance in Brussels.

The Europeans are inching towards the next phase of talks, though with “sufficient progress” not yet being confirmed they’re talking about commencing internal discussions about preparing for the next round. While this slow pace is infuriating, it’s always worth looking behind the public statements to get a sense of what is actually going on.

For starters, the most comprehensive outline of what a financial and professional services deal could look like was published recently by law firm Hogan Lovells, in conjunction with former Tory minister Mark Hoban and the International Regulatory Strategy Group. At the time, it was taken that the document would serve as a blueprint for talks once they got underway, and this week the report’s author told a House of Lords committee that it has been warmly received by officials on both sides of the Channel.

Read more: City's Brexit blueprint to be used as "starting point" for trade deal

Furthermore, we learnt this week that the German finance ministry has produced its own document calling for the City to retain status quo market access at least during transition. Then, Germany’s foreign ministry (spot the theme?) leaked its own report outlining a “comprehensive free-trade accord” with the UK, saying “we share the UK’s desire to secure a close partnership with the Union after its exit that covers economic and trade relations”. The document has apparently been circulated around other German government departments but has not been endorsed by Merkel.

However, taking these latest developments together, it’s clear that sensible people are already putting in the ground work. Of course the politics is important, but what we can discern from current chatter is that the pressure to move to trade talks is growing among member states as well as the business community – and EU officials will find it harder and harder to ignore the calls. Something’s got to give.

Labour turns against City of London Corporation

A week after I suggested in this column that Corbyn’s Labour would move to abolish the City of London Corporation, the Young Labour conference voted to do exactly that, saying the body was “a reactionary special interest” and claiming its functions “must be transferred into democratic control”. Council member Tom Sleigh points out to me that “there are more Labour party members elected [in the City] than there are other parties”. Looks like another Labour split is on the cards, then. It’s no surprise that the Corporation is an afront to the new Corbynite wave, after all – it’s 1,000 years old, steeped in tradition and intrinsically associated with the finance sector. In other words, it’s everything Corbyn’s fan-club isn’t. But beneath the red robes, it’s really just a local authority responsible for transport, libraries, council tax, social care, housing and policing. It’s also highly effective. Rather than seek to pick it apart, Labour should consider what they could learn from it.

Ministers should listen to concerns about student visas

Lord Howell of Guildford, president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, gave a speech this week to the Commonwealth Conference, in which he highlighted the importance of good relations with India – particularly when it comes to trade in services. Howell pointed out the need for trust and mutual respect – both of which are undermined by the UK’s “deplorable attitude to students from India” against whom the UK “deliberately discriminates in a hostile way” when it comes to visas. Ministers should listen to his concerns, and act on them.

Read more: Sadiq Khan brands student visa rules 'silly'

No new anti-Brexit party will get off the ground

I know it’s a risky business making political predictions these days, but here’s one: no new centrist (anti-Brexit) party will ever get off the ground. The latest to try and prove me wrong is, oddly enough, the Berlin bureau chief of The Economist, Jeremy Cliffe, who launched The Radicals one night earlier this week, on Twitter – of course. He invited people to express their interest and while thousands did, he quickly resigned from his new political position after his bosses had a quiet word.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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