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The EU quietly gets on with writing the UK out of the story

Jo HayesThe European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee voted in favour of a plan to reduce the number of seats in the European Parliament from 751 to 705 after the UK's departure, and to redistribute the remaining 27 currently British seats to compensate other member states for disparities in representation. France's MEPs each have an electorate of 900,000, while the figure for some other member states, such as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland and Denmark, is less than half that.

The compromise proposal is for France and Spain each to gain five additional seats, Italy and the Netherlands three, Ireland two, and Estonia, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden one.

The proposals went forward for further consideration and votes by the forthcoming plenary parliamentary session and the European Council.

Thus the EU is quietly getting on with writing the UK out of the story. What else can it do while the UK is run by the Brexit fanatics, the dog is wagged by the tail?

Ben Chu, economics editor of the Independent, explained why the CBI's exporter members were losing patience. As he put it, the UK-EU goods trade is predominantly corporate supply chain trade. He referred to a recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which found that more than half of the UK's imports from the EU are "intermediate" goods and services, i.e. not for immediate consumption but used in the production processes of British firms. The intermediates share of UK exports to the EU is almost 70%.

Thus the risk CBI members fear is of "disruptive new inspections and the effective severing of vital corporate supply chains" because the UK is not any more in the, or any, customs union with the EU. There would have to be checks for compliance with standards and checks that all the applicable levies have been paid, or that the relevant tariff waivers were in place.

This applies to the manufacture of vehicles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electronics, and to the huge looming headache of the Irish border.

Andreas Whittam Smith, also in the Independent, wrote that in relation to Theresa May's standing, "something important has happened in the past fortnight. For despite her well-known deficiencies, the Brexit wing of the Conservative Party had preferred her to any alternative they could contemplate. Now they are less sure of her Brexit credentials."

He made it clear he thought little of her leadership qualities: he thinks her too secretive, unable to handle pressure and indecisive. He thinks the men in grey suits (the 1922 Committee) could soon turn up and tell her to go.

And then what?