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BREXIT

Johnson ‘marginally more optimistic’ about Brexit deal after G7 summit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that he was "marginally more optimistic" on the chances of clinching a deal for Britain's exit from the EU after talks at the G7 this weekend, but acknowledged it would be difficult.

Johnson 'marginally more optimistic' about Brexit deal after G7 summit
Boris Johnson with fellow G7 leaders in Biarritz. Photo: AFP

“I am marginally more optimistic,” he said after intense contacts on Brexit at the G7 with fellow leaders.

But he added: “It will be difficult… there is a substantial disagreement” between Britain and the EU.

Johnson insisted that it was up to the EU to improve the chances of a deal but needed to negotiate a new agreement on leaving without the so-called  “backstop” for Ireland.

READ ALSO A no-deal Brexit is now 'the most likely scenario' say French officials

The backstop provision, strongly opposed by Johnson's government and Brexit supporters, is meant to guarantee that border checks will not return between  Ireland, an EU member, and Britain's Northern Ireland.

The EU has so far rejected negotiating a new deal, which was approved by the government under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May but repeatedly rejected by the British parliament.

“All the statistical estimates I give for a deal… they all depend exclusively on the willingness of our friends and partners (in the EU) to compromise on that crucial point and get rid of the backstop and the current withdrawal agreement.”

Addressing concerns he is prepared to ignore parliament so that Britain leaves the EU on October 31st, Johnson said British people were tired of reading about Brexit on the front pages of their newspapers.

“I think that this is a matter for parliamentarians to get right themselves,” he said, adding that it was up to lawmakers to implement the outcome of the 2016 referendum that called for the EU exit.

“People have just about had enough of this conversation and they are yearning for a moment when Brexit comes off the front pages. But that can only happen when we come out of the EU on October 31st,” he said.

Johnson also reaffirmed that if Britain left the EU without a deal it would not pay all of the €43 billion divorce bill  that has already been negotiated.

He did not specify how much, if any, would be paid.

“Under any circumstances, if there is a no-deal outcome, very substantial sums will be available from the €43 billion for the UK to spend on our priorities, including managing that no-deal scenario,” he said.

The EU insists Britain must pay the bill even if it crashes out of the bloc without a deal.

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BREXIT

‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.

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