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BREXIT: Finally, ‘Sufficient Progress’ Is Made As Juncker And May Do Deal |RN

By Press Association Reporters

The European Commission has announced that “sufficient progress” has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks.The announcement came after Theresa May and David Davis made an early-hours journey to Brussels to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The announcement came after Theresa May and David Davis made an early-hours journey to Brussels The announcement came after Theresa May and David Davis made an early-hours journey to Brussels

 

It followed talks which continued into the early hours between the Prime Minister and Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, whose party scuppered a deal at the eleventh hour on Monday.

Mrs Foster said that “substantial changes” to the text rejected on Monday would mean there was “no red line down the Irish Sea” in the form of a customs barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Juncker said that the decision on whether to move forward to talks on trade and the transition to a post-Brexit relationship was in the hands of the leaders of the 27 other EU nations, meeting in Brussels at a European Council summit on Thursday, but said he was “confident” they would do so.

The Commission president said: “I will always be sad about this development, but now we must start looking to the future, a future in which the UK will remain a close friend and ally.”

Mrs May said that intensive talks over the past few days had delivered “a hard-won agreement in all our interests”.

The Prime Minister said that the agreement would guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK “enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts”.

She said that it included a financial settlement which was “fair to the British taxpayer” and a guarantee that there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic, preserving the “constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom”.

She said that the agreement between the UK and the Commission, being published in a joint report, would offer “welcome certainty” to businesses.

Under the terms of the negotiations being carried out under Article 50 of the EU treaties, the European Council must agree that sufficient progress has been made on the divorce issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the UK’s financial settlement before talks can move on to the issues of trade and transition.

The publication of the joint report makes it all but certain that EU27 leaders will approve this step on Thursday, marking a significant step forward in the process leading towards UK withdrawal in March 2019.

It eases pressure on Mrs May, who was facing the prospect of businesses activating contingency plans to move staff and activities out of the UK if no progress had been made by the end of the year.

Mr Juncker cautioned: “The joint report is not the withdrawal agreement. That agreement needs to be drafted by the negotiators on the basis we have agreed yesterday and today and then approved by the Council and ratified by the UK Parliament and European Parliament.”

He said that he and Mrs May had discussed the need for a transition period following the formal date of Brexit, and shared “a joint vision of a deep and close partnership”.

“It is crucial for us all that we continue working closely together on issues such as trade, research, security and others,” he said.

“We will take things one step at a time, starting with next week’s European Council, but today I am hopeful that we are all moving towards the second phase of these challenging negotiations and we can do this jointly on the basis of renewed trust, determination and with the perspective of a renewed friendship.”

Mrs May said that the negotiation process “hasn’t been easy for either side”.

“When we met on Monday, we said a deal was within reach,” said the PM. “What we have arrived at today represents a significant improvement.”

Mrs May said: “I very much welcome the prospect of moving ahead to the next phase, to talk about trade and security and to discuss the positive and ambitious future relationship that is in all of our interests.”

She added: “The deal we’ve struck will guarantee the rights of more than three million EU citizens living in the UK and of a million UK citizens living in the EU.

“EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts. They will be able to go on living their lives as before.”

On the issue of the UK’s so-called “divorce bill”, which is expected to total up to £50 billion, Mrs May said that in her landmark speech in Florence in September she had made clear the UK was “a country that honours our obligations”.

She said: “After some tough conversations, we’ve now agreed a settlement that is fair to the British taxpayer. It means that in future we will be able to invest more in our priorities at home, such as housing, schools and the NHS.”

And on the Irish issue, she said the UK would “guarantee there is no hard border and uphold the Belfast Agreement, and in doing so, we will continue to preserve the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom”.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said the government was content at assurances it had achieved about avoiding a hard border. He said there was now “no scenario” that would result in new border checkpoints.

“Ireland supports Brexit negotiations moving to phase two now that we have secured assurances for all on the island of Ireland,” he said.

He said the deal “fully protected” the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process and an all-Ireland economy.

Mrs May said that the agreement delivers on the principle, to which she and Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar committed themselves in talks on Thursday, that “there should be no barriers, either north/south or east/west”.

She said she would write to the people of Northern Ireland on Friday to set out the approach.

Mrs May said she was “optimistic” about the trade talks which will stretch through much of 2018.

“In the meantime, reaching this agreement now ensures that businesses will be able to make investment decisions based on an implementation period that offers welcome certainty,” she said.

Asked whether she had ever considered during negotiations that “maybe after all, this whole Brexit affair is a very bad idea”, Mrs May said: “In 2016, the British people were given in a referendum the opportunity to choose whether to stay in the EU or not.

“Parliament was united across all parties in Parliament. A significant majority agreed that that decision would be given to the British people. The British people voted and they voted to leave the European Union.

“I believe it’s a matter of trust and integrity in politicians. I believe the people should be able to trust that their politicians will put into place what they have determined. That’s exactly what we are doing and we will leave the European Union.”

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said “substantial progress” had been made from the text her party rejected on Monday.

Mrs Foster, who negotiated directly with Mrs May into the early hours of Friday, said Northern Ireland would now leave the single market and customs union and insisted there would be no border down the Irish sea, dividing Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK.

“There will be no so-called ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland as demanded by Sinn Fein,” she told the Press Association.

“Northern Ireland will not be separated constitutionally, politically, economically or regulatory from the rest of the United Kingdom and the joint UK-EU report at the conclusion of phase one makes clear that in all circumstances the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.”

But the DUP leader made clear there was “still more work to be done”.  (Press Associaion)

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EU Business Leaders Tell PM: Agree Brexit Deal Or Face Collapse In Confidence |RN

Dan Roberts and Lisa O’Carroll
The BusinessEurope president, Emma Marcegaglia, (front) and the CBI director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, (back right) leaving 10 Downing Street, London, after a meeting between business leaders from Europe and Theresa May© Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA The BusinessEurope president, Emma Marcegaglia, (front) and the CBI director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, (back right) leaving 10 Downing Street, London, after a meeting…

 

Theresa May was told to commit to a Brexit divorce settlement within a fortnight or face a collapse in economic confidence in Britain, according to European business leaders at a confrontational Downing Street summit on Monday.

“We told them that they’ve lost a year because nothing happened. Now you have two weeks in which you have to be very clear,” said Emma Marcegaglia, president of BusinessEurope, which organised the 14-strong delegation.

“We appreciated the [prime minister’s] Florence speech but now you have to go from kind words to concrete, clear proposals,” she added, after more than an hour spent presenting their concerns to senior ministers in Downing Street.

May and her colleagues were told of specific concerns about the future of the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceuticals industries if high tariff barriers followed a hard Brexit and were presented with a CBI survey showing up to 60% of UK businesses would be forced to make contingency plans by this March.

“This is very, very bad,” said Marcegaglia, who was previously head of the Italian business lobby Confindustria. “If [businesses] don’t have certainty, they will simply go away.”

This is very urgent now,” added the CBI director general, Carolyn Fairbairn. “Firms will soon have no choice but to assume the worst in terms of planning for no deal.”

Downing Street said business leaders were told that progress was being made in the Brexit negotiations and that it shared their desire for a transition phase.

“The prime minister reassured the group that Brexit meant the UK was leaving the EU, not Europe, and reiterated her ambition for free and frictionless trade with the EU27 once the UK departs,” said a Downing Street spokesperson. “She also expressed her commitment to giving businesses the certainty they need by agreeing a time-limited implementation period as soon as possible.”

But those present at the meeting said participants were frustrated at the apparent lack of urgency.

Danny McCoy, the chief executive officer of Ibec, Ireland’s equivalent of the CBI, said its message to May was clear: “Business is increasingly frustrated and concerned at the lack of progress in negotiations. To move past the first phase of talks, which covers Ireland, the financial settlement and citizens’ rights, we need practical solutions and firm commitments, not just rhetoric.”

Speaking after the meeting, McCoy urged the government to stop treating Brexit like an opportunity for short-term gain and to focus on the long-term consequences.

“The polarised and fraught nature of the British debate is not conducive to the sophisticated compromises needed to steer the country away from a divisive, damaging divorce.”

Marcegaglia also said she saw little sign of movement by the British government, which did not mention the divorce bill and called instead for more movement from EU governments to clarify what they want.

“I am naturally optimistic otherwise I wouldn’t be a businesswoman but I didn’t really see any signal that they will change,” said the president of BusinessEurope.

Fairbairn said: “With UK-EU trade worth more than €600bn each year, business groups from across Europe used today’s meeting with the prime minister as a welcome opportunity to highlight the mutual importance of seeing real progress before Christmas.

“All business organisations present reiterated the damage a ‘no-deal’ scenario would do to trade,” she added. “While businesses welcomed the prime minister’s Florence speech, we now need to move beyond warm words if jobs, investment and living standards are to be protected.”

Business leaders also said they were concerned that any transition phase needed be longer than UK was proposing.

“One of the main concerns of the business community was to clarify the importance of a transitional phase for the continuity of business relations,” said Joachim Lang, the chief executive of Germany’s BDI. “Businesses’ idea of a transitional period differs from that of the British government. Two years is not enough to create the necessary legal framework.”      (The Guardian)

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Brexit Should Be Prevented, German Government Advisers Say |RN

Rainer Buergin
Angela Merkel and members of Germany’s Council of Economic Experts on Wednesday, Nov. 8.: Germany\'s Chancellor Angela Merkel Presented With 2018 Financial Growth Forecast By Council of Economic Experts© Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Bloomberg Germany\’s Chancellor Angela Merkel Presented With 2018 Financial Growth Forecast By Council of Economic Experts  

 

The U.K.’s exit from the European Union should be prevented due to the “far-reaching impact” Brexit would have, Germany’s Council of Economic Experts, which advises Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Wednesday.

If Britain does leave the bloc, an agreement is needed that would minimize the damage for both sides, the council said in its annual report. With talks likely to drag on longer than the two years envisaged by EU rules, a one-time extension period should be granted, the experts said.

“Due to the wide-ranging impact of a U.K. exit from the EU, the council continues to urge that it be prevented,” the council said. “The economic cost of Brexit will hit the U.K. significantly harder than the rest of the EU.”

 EU President Donald Tusk last month revived the notion Britain could remain a member of the bloc, saying the outcome was entirely in the hands of the British government. Germany and France have indicated the U.K. would be welcomed back if it decided to reverse the Brexit process. In order to do so, Britain would likely have to hold another referendum or elect a government led by a party that campaigned on a promise to stay in the EU.

Brexit Deadlock

Commuters walk over London Bridge towards the City of London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. With their anxiety spiraling over Brexit, Britain’s business leaders weren’t impressed by the pitch from the Conservative premier -- or the Labour leader who wants her job.: Commuters As U.K. Executives Angry Over Brexit Fumbles© Bloomberg/Bloomberg Commuters As U.K. Executives Angry Over Brexit Fumbles

The European Union will begin talks Wednesday on what the 27 countries want from a Brexit transition deal, seeking a united stance they can present to the U.K. once talks break out of the current deadlock. Both sides are hoping that talks on trade and the transition can move ahead after an EU summit in mid-December.

“There is still a risk of an uncontrolled exit and sudden adjustment reactions by economic agents,” the German government advisers said. “Conversely, the possibility of the U.K. staying in the EU can’t be completely excluded.” The council’s comments on Brexit made up about two pages of the more than 400-page report, which includes a detailed assessment of global economic conditions.

The advisers also urged the European Central Bank to end its bond-buying program earlier than planned and consider raising interest rates. They said that risks to financial market stability have increased even in the absence of deflationary threats in the 19-nation euro area.

“On the one hand there’s a risk of excessive asset prices, especially in the residential real estate and bond sectors, and on the other hand, the interest-rate change risk at banks has increased significantly,” the council said. “The ECB should therefore urgently communicate a comprehensive strategy for the normalization of its monetary policy.”

NOW SEE: The Germans are making contingency plans for the end of Europe. Let’s hope we are, too

                © Reuters

(Source: Bloomberg)

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Brexit: Britain Gets ‘No Deal’ As Punishment For Leaving And Not The Reward |RN

jedwards@businessinsider.com (Jim Edwards)
    © Getty Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

* Many pro-Leave people believe “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

* They’re wrong: “No deal” is the worst-possible deal Britain could get.

* Article 50 is structured like a trap in order to deliver a “no deal” scenario to any country that dares to leave the EU.

* Theresa May and Philip Hammond seem to be belatedly waking up to the fact that threatening to walk away without a deal is a really bad idea.

LONDON — This week, Peter J. North, the editor of the Leave Alliance blog, outlined how fantastic he thinks post-Brexit Britain will be, once the UK finally gets out of the EU in 2019:

“We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

“In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s.

“… Anyone who considers themselves ‘Just about managing’ right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very p***** off people.

“… Effectively we are looking at a ten-year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50.”

“Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for.”

Theresa May                © Provided by Business Insider UK Theresa May

He is still in favour of Brexit, he adds. “Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer.”

The problem is that, like a lot of Leavers, North wasn’t banking on the government choosing “no deal” — and thus no access to the Single Market — as its main strategy. In fact, until recently, “no deal” was regarded as the worst possible outcome for precisely the fears that North describes.

Yet in the last few months, “no deal” seems to be the government’s target policy.

Back in May, Theresa May fought the general election with a Conservative manifesto that said: “no deal is better than a bad deal” for the UK in the Brexit negotiations with the EU.

The idea behind that phrase is that during the Article 50 negotiations Britain’s chief weapon would be the prime minister’s ability to get up from the table and walk away as if this were the thing that Europe fears most.

What if all the planes stopped flying?

But as her chancellor, Philip Hammond, said yesterday, “no deal” is an empty threat: The uncertainty of Brexit is already dragging down the British economy, and “it is theoretically conceivable that in a ‘no deal’ scenario there will be no air traffic moving between the UK and the European Union on March 29th, 2019.”

He called that a “realistic worst-case scenario.”

Philip Hammond                  © Provided by Business Insider UK Philip Hammond

There are millions of hardcore Leavers out there who actually want this. They think “hard Brexit” is the best Brexit, and they are actively urging the government to leave with no deal. They think “no deal” is some sort of threat that the EU is trying to avoid.

Wrong.

“No deal” is not our backup threat to the EU. It’s the worst possible outcome for the UK.

No deal involves no access to the Single Market, tariffs and taxes on UK exports, restrictions on British people travelling and working in Europe, and major cross-national employers leaving Britain in order to maintain their ties to the much larger European market. There are almost no economic advantages to “no deal,” only the political advantage of not being bound by European law. (And even then, if we want to trade with Europe after Brexit, our exports will have to obey their laws.) It will shave several points off GDP growth, which right now is so weak that would mean a recession.

No deal is the bad deal.

It is the punishment Brexit. It is the deterrent to leaving, not the reward. “No deal” is what the EU wants “pour encourager les autres.”

“I think we should be aiming a tad higher than avoiding death”

May again referenced “no deal is better than a bad deal” in her Florence speech, in which she talked about “our preparations for our life outside the European Union – with or without what I hope will be a successful deal.” (Emphasis added.) But she went on to say, “Let us open our minds to the possibility. To a new era of cooperation and partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union. And to a stronger, fairer, more prosperous future for us all. For that is the prize if we get this negotiation right.”

May was possibly hinting that she understands that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is like putting a gun to your head and shouting “stop or I’ll shoot!” The tactic is especially dumb when you understand that the Article 50 negotiation process is essentially structured like a trap, precisely in order to deliver a “no deal” scenario to any country that dares to leave the EU.

It will take several more months, and perhaps some grim job losses in Leave-voting constituencies, and among farmers, before Brexiteers realise just how wrong “no deal” can go.

Charlie Mullins, the extravagantly coiffed plumbing empire boss, said it best this week:

“The simple fact is that half a loaf is always better than starving to death, although personally, I think we should be aiming a tad higher than avoiding death.”

NOW SEE: Brexit blunder – how May walked straight into the EU’s Article 50 trap

                              © Business Insider

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Net Migration To UK Falls To lowest For Three Years As EU Citizens Leave |RN

By PA Reporters
(Steve Parsons/PA)               © Provided by The Press Association (Steve Parsons/PA)  

Net migration to the UK has fallen to the lowest level for three years after a surge in the number of EU nationals leaving the country.

Official estimates show the overall measure – the difference between arrivals and departures – was at 246,000 in the year to the end of March, a fall of 81,000 compared with the previous 12 months.

The Office for National Statistics said more than half of the change can be accounted for by a 51,000 decrease in net migration of EU citizens.

Emigration of EU citizens increased by 33,000 year on year to 122,000 – the highest outflow for nearly a decade.

There was a particularly sharp rise, of 17,000, in departures of citizens from the so-called EU8 countries which joined the union in 2004 – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

At the same time, there was a 19,000 decrease in immigration from the EU, although this was not “statistically significant”.

Nicola White, head of international migration statistics at the ONS, said: “We have seen a fall in net migration driven by an increase in emigration, mainly for EU citizens and in particular EU8 citizens, and a decrease in immigration across all groups.

“International migration for work remains the most common reason for migration with people becoming increasingly likely to move to the UK or overseas only with a definite job than to move looking for work.

“These results are similar to 2016 estimates and indicate that the EU referendum result may be influencing people’s decision to migrate into and out of the UK, particularly EU and EU8 citizens.

“It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend.”

Net long-term migration estimates reflect the balance between the numbers coming to the UK or leaving for at least 12 months.

The overall figure of 246,000, which includes migration from outside the EU, is the lowest since the year ending March 2014.

EU net migration was estimated at 127,000 in the year to March, a dip of 51,000 in the previous 12 months.

The figure for the rest of the world was also down, by 14,000, to 179,000.

Separate population figures for 2016 revealed that the number of Polish nationals living in the UK has passed the one million mark for the first time.

Last year around one in seven residents were born abroad, and one in 11 had a non-British nationality.

Another dataset released on Thursday showed that more than a quarter (28.2%) of births in England and Wales were to women born outside the UK, the highest level on record.

Statisticians said that despite an overall decline in the number of births between 2015 and 2016, births to mothers born overseas increased by 2.1% as foreign-born women make up an increasing share of the female population of childbearing age.

Brent in north-west London was the local authority area with the highest percentage of births to non-UK-born women, at more than three quarters (76.0%).   (Press Association)

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Free Movement Of People To End In March 2019, PM’s Spokesman Says |RN

UK Border control             © Reuters UK Border control  

Free movement of EU citizens to Britain will end when the country leaves the EU in March 2019, Downing Street has said, moving to contain a Cabinet row over immigration after Brexit.

As senior ministers appeared to contradict each other for days over the issue, Theresa May’s spokesman insisted there is “broad agreement” on the Government to make Brexit as smooth as possible.

The spokesman said that proposals for a new immigration system after Brexit will be brought forward “in due course” and added: “It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or suggest that free movement will continue as it is now.”

With Mrs May away on a three-week holiday break, tensions have heightened among the Conservatives.

Divisions burst into the open after Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd said they backed transitional arrangements after the UK leaves the bloc, suggesting EU migration could continue.

Mr Hammond said last week that there should be no immediate change to immigration rules when Britain leaves the bloc, adding that there would be a registration system in place for people coming to work in the UK during the transitional period.

But in an interview with The Sunday Times, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said that any such move would “not keep the faith” with the referendum result.

He said the Cabinet had not agreed on a stance on immigration.

And a spokesman for Boris Johnson was forced to dismiss a suggestion that the Foreign Secretary was considering quitting the Government in protest at the way Brexit was being handled.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Foreign Secretary was “doing an excellent job”.

He said details of a post-Brexit implementation period were a matter for negotiations, he added, but Britain is not seeking an “off-the-shelf” solution.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Hammond told business leaders that he hoped for an “off-the-shelf” transition deal with Brussels to maintain current trading relations with Europe for at least two years after Brexit.

Number 10’s comments came as Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt and Sir Michael Fallon sought to play down reports of a Cabinet split.

Mr Fallon, taking part in Passchendaele memorial events in Ypres, said the issue of immigration policy during a transitional deal would be “one of the details” for the Brexit negotiations.

He told Sky News: “All of us, whichever way we vote back in the referendum, we are determined to make a success of us leaving the European Union,” adding that “you mustn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.”

Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Cabinet was “completely united”.   (Sky News)

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How British Top Diplomat Went To Asia And Annoyed The Chinese |RN

Alex Morales and Linly Lin
           © Brendon Thorne – Pool/Getty Images

 

Boris Johnson spent a week visiting Japan, New Zealand and Australia in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals. Instead, the gaffe-prone diplomat ended up riling a far bigger economy: China.

Known back home just as ‘Boris,’ Johnson is a popular figure often tipped as a future prime minister while he serves as foreign minister. He played a key role in changing the tide of public opinion in favour of the U.K. leaving the European Union.

In his official capacity, he’s been charged with charming nations and convincing them of the value of strengthening commercial ties with the U.K. even as it prepares to quit the biggest trading bloc of them all. The problem is that his rhetoric often lands himself in trouble.

In a speech in Sydney on Thursday, Johnson urged all countries bordering the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law.” That sounded the alarm back in China, arguably the one economy Britain can ill-afford to peeve given the political sensitivities in play.

 

Britain “is ready once again to articulate our commitment to international order with money and a military presence,” he said, adding “that is why one of the first missions of our two vast new aircraft carriers will be to sail through the Straits of Malacca.”

Making Waves

While Johnson didn’t point the finger at China directly, his comments were interpreted as an indelicate reference to overlapping territorial claims in the region by countries including China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China claims most of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, and in recent years it has boosted its military presence, reclaiming thousands of acres of land to build artificial outposts on reefs. The Strait of Malacca is the gateway to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean.

“There are no longer any British colonies in East Asia and the presence of Britain’s warship in the region is more like an aberration,” China’s Global Times said on Friday in an editorial. “Brexit is weakening Britain’s influence, and it appears that the country needs to do something to assert its sense of identity. If it goes too far, however, it will get itself in trouble.”

While the Global Times isn’t a Chinese government publication, it’s affiliated with the ruling Communist Party and is often used as a mouthpiece for government thinking. The government’s official response was more measured.

‘Tranquil’ Sea

“An individual nation that is not in the region insists on making some waves in the South China Sea where it has turned tranquil,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China is sincere in creating a golden era in China-U.K. relations, but it requires efforts from both sides to improve any bilateral relationships.”

The economics of keeping China happy are compelling. It was the seventh-biggest destination for British exports in 2017, and the second-biggest outside Europe, buying more than 13 billion pounds ($17 billion) worth of goods in 2016, according to U.K. statistics.

It was also the third biggest source of imports, with Britain buying some 36 billion pounds worth of goods. China’s importance was not completely lost on Johnson, though.

“We will be here as a partner and friend, aiming at good relations with all the major countries of this region — not choosing between them,” he said. “Our relationship with China, the engine of global growth, will be crucial now and in the future.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net, Linly Lin in London at llin153@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Michael Winfrey  (Bloomberg)

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