May’s Conservatives squabble over trade terms

Brussels/London - Divisions resurfaced in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party this week, ahead of what could be a crucial week for her flagship Brexit bill in parliament.
- Right-wing Conservative "BREXITEERS" pushed May to take a tougher line in negotiations with the European Union after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he hoped Britain's post-Brexit trading relations with the EU would change only "very modestly."
Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg urged the government not to be "timid and COWERING" in the negotiations.
Fellow Conservative CONOR BURNS said May had stated clearly that Britain will leave the EU single market and customs union after Brexit, asking on Twitter "why some don't seem able to grasp the policy."

Minmize any reduction in access

- Responding to his critics on Friday, HAMMOND said that in a speech during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he had made the point that the government wants to "minmize any reduction in access" after Brexit.
"For anyone concerned - I was clear earlier in same speech at DAVOS [that the] UK will cease to be member of EU on 29 March 2019, and after we will be outside the customs union and the single market," he tweeted.
- The divisions are likely to be sharpened next week when the EU WITHDRAWAL BILL heads for a second reading in the the Lords, parliament's unelected upper house, where it faces a rocky ride from both Conservative rebels and opposition lawmakers who want Britain to remain in the single market and customs union.

The elected lower house, the COMMONS, approved the bill earlier this month but the rebels warned May that she faces a much tougher task to push the bill through the Lords without significant amendments.
- Hammond also warned that if Brexit talks go awry, the FINANCE INDUSTRY will shift its London-based business OUT OF EUROPE rather than to mainland European cities.

"I honestly think [it] is a fantasy that isn’t going to happen."

It would be impossible to re-create London's global financial hub in cities such as Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam, he said in Davos. "I honestly think [it] is a fantasy that isn’t going to happen."
- Meanwhile, the EU has continued taking steps to prepare for life after Brexit. On Tuesday, EU lawmakers proposed SHRINKING the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT from 751 to 705 elected members due to Britain's departure, with seats to be put aside for future pan-European electoral lists.
Of the 73 seats British EU lawmakers hold in the EU legislature, 27 should be shared out among under-represented EU member states, including France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland, lawmakers in the Constitutional Affairs committee agreed.
The remaining 46 seats should be set aside, in part for any countries that join the EU in coming years, but also in case of a decision to introduce pan-European lists, the committee said.
The proposal has yet to be approved by the European Parliament as a whole and individual EU member states.
- Also, a backup centre - comprised of one staff member - for the EU's GALILEO navigation satellite programme will MOVE from Britain to Spain as a consequence of Brexit, the European Commission decided Wednesday.