Brexit LIVE: EU asks Boris Johnson to immediately change new law – five countries lash out

Brexit deal ‘needs a robust government to work’ says Oulds

The EU has discovered not all member states are subject to the same rules and fees when applying for post-Brexit work visas in the UK. Five EU countries face more expensive charges than other member states, which has prompted an outcry from impacted countries.

Having left the EU, the UK is no longer part of the bloc’s freedom of movement, which allows EU nationals to look and apply for jobs in another country without the need for a work permit.

As a result, EU nationals must now apply for a work visa in order to take up a job in the UK.

However, European countries have been furious to find the fees charged are not the same for all members of the bloc and have demanded the rules be changed.

Under current rules, the citizens of 25 countries, including 21 in the EU, are subject to a £55 discount in fees when applying for jobs in specific areas, just as health care staff, researchers, charity workers and temporary workers such as fruit pickers.

Employers recruiting from these countries are also eligible for a discount, as companies are not required to pay the £199 fee needed to issue a certificate of sponsorship to hire them.

Five EU countries are not eligible for the reduced fees: Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.

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Irish citizens do not require working visas, as they form part of the Common Travel Area with the UK.

In response, the countries affected are demanding Brussels step up as they believe the UK is discriminating among member countries.

One diplomat told Politico: “In our view, this is a differentiated treatment that needs to be carefully scrutinized. The issue is not about the additional £55 that the five member states citizens will need to pay compared to other EU citizens, but clearly about the differentiated treatment that they are faced with.”

A second diplomat said: “People across the EU will feel they are being treated differently and that will raise lots of questions.”

The UK Government has said the visa rules are based on the signatories of the Council of Europe’s Social Charter (CESC), an international treaty dating back to 1961 adopted by 26 countries including the UK.

They argue that reducing visa fees for any country where this is not related to an international obligation would itself raise questions of discrimination.

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11.50pm update: EU fishing ban: Brexiteer highlights plan for UK to defeat ‘devastating’ Brussels move

A Brexiteer has urged UK supermarkets to buy the British shellfish the EU are refusing to import, in a bit to defeat the “devastating” Brussels move.

The ban has infuriated British fishermen, with the exports of live mussels, oysters, scallops and certain other shellfish subject to ongoing restrictions.

In response to the news, the MP for Wokingham wrote on Twitter: “Will the supermarkets buy the shellfish the EU will not take and work with our fishing industry to sell it to UK buyers?”

Several Twitter users responded and welcomed the idea.

11.20am update: Brexit bombshell: EU has breached Good Friday Agreement, former MEP says – ‘Rip up deal!’

Boris Johnson has been urged to immediately invoke Article 16 and suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol because it breaches a fundamental principle of the Good Friday Agreement by foisting arrangements on the people of the North without their consent.

However, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib fears comments made by the Prime Minister earlier this week suggest he does not understand either document well enough to realise the impact the Brexit agreement which he signed at the end of 2019 has on the landmark treaty, also known as the Belfast Agreement, which was signed in 1998.

Mr Habib was speaking at a time of rising tensions after the EU itself triggered Article 16, preventing the import of coronavirus medicines into Northern Ireland, before reversing its decision after vehement protests from London.

He told Express.co.uk this morning: “I was watching the House of Commons two days ago and Ian Paisley asked Boris Johnson to intercede in the Northern Irish Protocol, and he also mentioned the EU.”

10.45am update: EU chief accidentally explains EXACTLY why UK quit bumbling bloc

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has inadvertently set out set out the case for Brexit while defending the bloc’s shambolic vaccine scheme.

The European Commission President blamed Brussels bureaucracy for the EU’s sluggish roll-out of Covid jabs. And attempting to justify her shortcomings, she conceded independent Britain had been nimble like a “speedboat” and able to administer vaccinations at breakneck speed.

With the EU slipping almost five weeks behind vaccination schedule, Mrs von der Leyen faces growing criticism of her handling of the pandemic.

“Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a ship,” Mrs von der Leyen told a group of European newspapers.

“Before concluding a contract with a pharmaceutical company, the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not.

“This naturally delays the process. Indeed, we must constantly put pressure on ourselves so that each step of the decision-making process is as fast and efficient as possible

10am update: Britain signs lucrative £1.2bn trade agreement with Ghana

Britain has secured a trade deal worth £1.2billion with Ghana, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has announced.

A joint statement from the two countries said: “Today Ghana and the UK are pleased to announce that they have finalised negotiations on a new Interim Ghana-UK Trade Partnership Agreement.

“This Agreement will provide for duty free and quota free access for Ghana to the UK market and preferential tariff reductions for UK exporters to the Ghanaian market.

“The Agreement will enter into effect following the completion of relevant internal procedures required in both Ghana and the UK.”

Ms Truss’s department has signed more than 60 trade deals over the past 18 months, more than any country has ever achieved within the same time period.

9.30am update: Brexit deal to be backed in crunch EU vote – major document leaked

The European Parliament’s most powerful committees are set to back the Brexit deal, Express.co.uk can reveal.

This website has seen a leaked draft of the “legislative resolution” that will eventually write MEPs’ approval of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement into law.

Drawn up by the Parliament’s international trade and foreign affairs committee, the legislation “gives its consent to the Conclusion of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part”.

It will be accompanied by a report from Brexit rapporteurs Luxembourger Christophe Hansen and Dutch Kati Piri.

The pair are due to unveil their recommendations of the 1,246-page trade and security treaty to committee members later today.

8.40am update: VDL forced to make humbling admission over vaccine chaos

Ursula von der Leyen has admitted Brussels “underestimated” the challenges of the coronavirus vaccine rollout across the bloc.

In a bitter concession, the Commission President said manufacturing of the jabs will continue to be uneven and slow in the coming months.

She said: “A start of vaccination does not mean a seamless flow of vaccine doses coming from the industry. This is a bitter learning part, and this we certainly have underestimated.

“Had I known what difficulties we have now with the Schwankungen, with the fluctuations in the beginning period, yes, we should have warned that this goes not seamless and smooth and in a straight upward movement at the very beginning.”

She said Brussels now expects to receive about 100 million vaccine doses in the first three months of this year, with deliveries increasing month by month.

She said: “It shows the direction of the delivery is the right one. It’s going up but we have now learned that there will always be ups and downs.”

8.05am update: Barclays CEO says UK should try to compete with US and Asia – not Europe

The UK’s financial services industry should focus on taking on New York and Singapore rather than the EU post-Brexit, the chief executive of Barclays has said.

Jes Staley, who has led the bank since December 2015, told the BBC that UK fostering co-operation and trust with the EU was important in the wake of the divorce, but not at the cost of being uncompetitive.

He told the broadcaster: “What the UK needs and London needs, is to make sure that the city is one of the best places, whether it was regulation or law or language, or talent that manages these flows of capital well.

“I think what London needs to be focused on is not Frankfurt or not Paris, (it) needs to be focused on New York and Singapore.

“Brexit gives the UK the opportunity to define its own agenda, and in defining that agenda around financial services, staying competitive with other markets outside of Europe is really what the Government here should be focused on, and I think that’s what they’re focusing on.”

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