O Canada: Donald Tusk met with Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to discuss the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations. At a press conference afterwards, both called for the UK to publish its alternative backstop arrangement for the Irish border. Tusk once again made clear the EU stood firmly behind Ireland and there was no hint of a softening attitude towards the Good Friday Agreement, creating big problems for the UK negotiating team. Clearly frustrated by the sub-glacial pace of negotiations, a senior UK Government official told Politico that all sides are going to have to give ground soon, stating: “Look, if they don’t move – all of them – we’ve got a problem”. But who will budge first? There was some succour for the Brexit brigade though, as they had cause to offer a heartfelt domo arigato to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said the UK would be welcomed with open arms into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which also includes Canada, Australia and Mexico. However, such a move would require the hardest of hard Brexits – akin to Boris Johnson’s Canada ++.
Dancing To Her Own Tune: The embattled Prime Minister stuck to her guns at Conservative conference on Wednesday. Bullish about leaving with no deal, she said she would reject any EU proposal that “carves off” Northern Ireland into the customs union or retains free movement and “vast” annual payments. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour received a lot of flak for toying with the idea of a second referendum on Brexit and for opposing any Conservative deal “regardless of how good it is”. The Prime Minister also announced the UK’s future immigration system would not would not give preferential treatment to EU migrants and would restrict low-skilled EU migration. The SNP claimed this was evidence of a “reckless mission to trash the economy” in the name of “narrow Tory dogma”.
Testing Times: The effect of Brexit on the health sector has received a lot of attention. Trials of a new heart drug at the Golden Jubilee Hospital were suspended because of uncertainty about the approval of new medicines after Brexit. Separately, the UK drugs regulator warned a no deal would slow down the UK’s access to new medicines, as products authorised by the European Medicines Agency would have to be checked again. Elsewhere, the Civil Aviation Authority’s attempts to keep planes flying in the event of no deal were rebuffed by its EU counterpart. The European Aviation Safety Agency said doing so before a deal was reached would be “premature”.