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Brexit round up – Week commencing 11 March 2019

Matrix’s Legal Support Service provides a round-up of Brexit-related links and news.

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. Research by the LSE’s Sara Hobolt and her colleagues suggests that Remain and Leave are becoming crucial political identities, rivalling more familiar influences like party identification and class in their explanatory power and, potentially, their electoral consequences.
  2. Scottish Labour has formally backed calls for a second referendum on Brexit but has done little to reassure Remainers that the party is ready to mount a serious push for such a vote.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. Despite retreating from supporting a parliamentary vote on a second referendum this week, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said Labour would back a delay to Brexit to help secure a better withdrawal deal. Meanwhile, Stephen Barclay has held detailed talks with Labour MPs who are championing plans for a second referendum – amid signs of mounting desperation inside Theresa May’s Government about what to do if the prime minister’s deal suffers another crushing defeat on Tuesday.
  2. Downing Street has described the Brexit talks in Brussels as ‘deadlocked’ after negotiations over the weekend failed to find a breakthrough on the Irish backstop, and Theresa May has been warned that she faces an ‘inevitable’ defeat in the Commons without concessions from the EU on this as she enters last-ditch talks. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has launched an attack on Michel Barnier, accusing him of trying to ‘re-run old arguments’.
  3. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have clashed over Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with Mr Johnson calling on MPs to reject it whilst Mr Gove has warned that leaving the EU without a deal ‘wasn’t the message of the campaign [he] helped lead’. Meanwhile Cabinet ministers are reportedly preparing to force Theresa May to announce that she will stand down by the end of June in a bid to win MPs’ support on Brexit.
  4. Public health minister Steve Brine has stated that he would be prepared to resign or be sacked if Theresa May does not let Tory MPs vote to stop a no-deal Brexit this week.
  5. Theresa May made a statement from Strasbourg, talking up a string of ‘legally binding’ changes to her Brexit deal and stating that the Government had delivered on the demands of MPs. Meanwhile Jean-Claude Juncker has warned MPs they will get ‘no third chance’ to make Brexit happen after this batch of last-minute changes.
  6. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox published his Legal Opinion on Theresa May’s revised deal, which the FT assessed as being a choice of law over politics. It is widely expected on the back of this that May’s deal will be defeated in the Commons vote. Theresa May’s deal was defeated by 149 votes and Brussels took a hard line following this, stating that there was ‘no more’ the EU could do to rescue the Brexit deal. The bloc stated that, if it seeks an extension to art 50, Britain must have a ‘credible’ reason for the delay, with Buzzfeed reporting that the EU will advise leaders that delaying Brexit makes sense only in three scenarios: to give more time to prepare for no deal, to complete ratification of the withdrawal agreement or if the UK decides to hold an election or a referendum.
  7. Theresa May stated that she will give Tory MPs a free vote on the Brexit no-deal vote in Parliament. The cross-party amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit in all circumstances was backed by 312 votes to 308. PoliticsHome has published a discussion of Wednesday’s votes and the position in which they leave the Government. Downing Street was on reportedly at war with its own whips after ministers were allowed to defy an order to effectively support a no-deal Brexit.
  8. Theresa May has put forward a motion to be debated and voted on by MPs on Thursday, stating that unless her Brexit deal – which has already been rejected twice by the Commons – is passed by 20 March, ‘the Government will seek to agree with the EU a one-off extension of the period specified in Article 50 for a period ending on 30 June 2019’. She has issued an ultimatum, telling Eurosceptic MPs to back her divorce deal or face a Brexit delay which would force Britain to hold elections to the European Parliament. Despite this, Philip Hammond has called for a cross-party ‘consensus’ to get a soft Brexit deal passed by the Commons.
  9. The Financial Times has discussed the rival proposals to Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Meanwhile Donald Tusk has stated that the EU should be ‘open to a long extension’ of UK membership if more time is needed for the UK to ‘rethink’ its approach to leaving the bloc.
  10. John Bercow has selected a second referendum amendment from Sarah Wollaston for voting on Thursday night, stating that the UK’s exit from the EU should be delayed for the purpose of legislating for and conducting a public vote in which staying in the bloc is an option on the ballot paper. This was defeated by a majority of 249 votes.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. Japanese pharmaceutical company, Shionogi, which based its European headquarters in London five years ago, is now planning to move the base to the Netherlands in preparation for Brexit.
  2. The Bank of England has tightened its liquidity buffers before Brexit, telling some UK lenders to triple their holdings of easy-to-sell assets to cope with the market meltdown forecast if the UK crashes out of the EU.
  3. The Financial Times reports on the IEA’s warning that a disorderly Brexit and trade spats would hit oil demand, as global uncertainties dictate consumer spending patterns. It has also reported that the UK’s commercial property market is starting to feel the chill from the Brexit uncertainty.
  4. EasyJet is stockpiling parts for its aircraft in continental Europe, in case a no-deal Brexit severs its supply chains.
  5. The Government has announced that tariffs will be cut to zero on 87% of imports to the UK as part of a temporary no-deal plan to prevent a £9bn price shock to business and consumers. Meanwhile it has set out proposals to set up a different customs regime for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK in a no-deal Brexit, infuriating business.
  6. A new report on the impact of Brexit, by think tank New Financial, has identified 275 firms in the banking and finance industry that have responded to Brexit by relocating part of their business, moving some staff, or setting up new entities in the EU.
  7. Business groups have united to urge MPs to reject a no-deal Brexit in the parliamentary vote.
  8. The European Parliament and national governments have reached provisional agreement to set tough conditions for UK-based clearing houses, including the London Stock Exchange Group’s LCH, to maintain business with EU-based clients post-Brexit.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

George Croft, has won the Times/One Essex Court Law Awards essay competition, writing on ‘Is Brexit a threat or an opportunity?’.

Data Protection

The ICO has published guidance and resources for organisations post-Brexit, as well as an infographic on data protection if there’s no Brexit deal.

Employment

A legal opinion drafted for the TSSA and IWGB unions by Aidan O’Neill QC has stated that Theresa May’s ‘half-hearted’ promise to protect workers’ rights after Brexit cannot be enforced.

Health

Ministers are set to implement new price capping powers to prevent a surge in drug prices in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has published guidance on the submission, processing and assessment of all completed paediatric studies sponsored by Marketing Authorisation Holders in the event of a no deal Brexit scenario.

Immigration

Staff shortages in Britain’s IT industry and NHS have driven a surge in migration from the Indian subcontinent last year as companies looked to fill gaps as EU citizens left.

Caroline Nokes, immigration minister, has stated that some type of post-Brexit ID card system for the UK could be considered as a response to the sheer complexity of residence rules once free movement ends.

Human Rights, Equality and Discrimination

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report stating that the Government must ensure that human rights standards are upheld in all international agreements made after Brexit.

Property

The High Court has granted the European Medicines Agency permission to appeal in a dispute over whether its 25-year lease at Canary Wharf will be frustrated by Brexit.

Events

  1. The Financial Times is hosting a conference entitled FT Brexit and Beyond Summit 2019 on the 15th May in London.