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Brexit round up – Week commencing 14 January 2019

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. The Prime Minister raised the spectre of Scottish independence and a united Ireland for the first time in an attempt to persuade Tory Brexiteers and DUP rebels to back the Government’s withdrawal agreement.
  2. Former head of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, has stated that Theresa May would not be able to unilaterally revoke article 50 as her predecessor John Major has urged because, as Parliament had to approve the triggering of art 50, there is a “powerful argument” that revocation could also only be thwarted by statute.
  3. Rhodri Thompson QC has published an article considering whether the UK can change its mind on Brexit and, if so, how, looking at the fallout from the CJEU ruling in Wightman.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. Veteran Tory MP, Sir Edward Leigh, who was appointed a Privy Counsellor by Theresa May has announced he has changed his mind and will now support her Brexit deal. However, a string of Conservative ex-ministers have urged Tory MPs to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal in favour of leaving the EU without an agreement. Meanwhile the Prime Minister has warned that MPs could do “catastrophic” damage to the public’s faith in democracy if they fail to back her Brexit deal. By contrast, Sir John Major has called on Theresa May to revoke art 50 in order to avoid the possibility of a “damaging” no-deal Brexit.
  2. According to reports, diplomatic sources from Brussels have stated that the EU is braced for a request from Theresa May to delay Brexit until at least July. Meanwhile, according to German newspaper Bild, more than 100 MEPs have written a letter asking the UK to reconsider leaving.
  3. On the morning of the meaningful vote The Guardian reported on the newspaper coverage of Brexit as papers ‘played to their readerships’. The Financial Times has discussed what the Plan B options are for if Theresa May’s deal is defeated.
  4. The Institute for Government has published a list of the tabled amendments to the meaningful vote motion. Labour MP Hilary Bennbowed to pressure from his party colleagues and pulled his amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, hours before the vote, because a victory may have masked the true scale of the prime minister’s defeat on the deal.
  5. Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker sent a letter to Theresa May in an attempt to assist her in getting her Brexit deal passed. The Guardian has explained the legal and political assurances in the letters.
  6. It was widely reported that Theresa May would face a crushing defeat on her Brexit deal in the parliamentary vote. Theresa May’s deal was defeated by 230 votes, leading the EU to escalate no deal planning, and The Guardian has done a round-up of what the papers are saying about it.
  7. In Europe, Macron has stated that there is little scope to improve the terms of the deal, Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has said there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement, and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she sorry about London’s decision and a no deal Brexit is the worst of all options. More than two dozen leading figures from German politics, industry and the arts, including Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, have announced an “unprecedented” cross-party campaign to persuade Britain “from the bottom of our hearts” to remain.
  8. The defeat has led Corbyn to table a motion of no confidence in the Government, which he lost by a margin of 19 votes. The Liberal Democrats have said they will not support Labour in future no-confidence votes unless the party backs a second referendum, making it almost impossible that the party could force a general election.
  9. Dublin held the line that the Brexit withdrawal treaty is the ‘best way’ to ensure an orderly Brexit, calling on Britain to set out proposals to move forward after Theresa May’s defeat.
  10. The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee has published a response to the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, setting out the options for Parliament.
  11. Jeremy Corbyn has refused to discuss Brexit options with Theresa May until she rules out the idea of a no-deal departure. Meanwhile Sarah Wollaston has pledged to put down an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit plan, proposing the second referendum. However, though opposition leaders have issued a last-ditch plea to Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum on Brexit after he failed to trigger a general election, a number of Labour frontbenchers say they would consider resigning if their leader backed the idea.
  12. Theresa May’s talks with opposition parties about a Brexit plan B have descended into acrimony as she has told MPs that she cannot make substantial changes to her existing plan despite its overwhelming rejection in the Commons. Meanwhile, Cabinet splits on Brexit burst open last night as senior figures scrapped over whether Theresa May should pursue a softer EU departure, and Philip Hammond has told business chiefs that a “significant majority” of MPs could team up next week to stop a no-deal Brexit and revoke art 50.
  13. According to The Times, EU officials are examining plans to delay Brexit until 2020 after Germany and France indicated their willingness to extend withdrawal negotiations because of Britain’s political turmoil. Lawyers have advised the European Parliament that the UK can extend its EU membership beyond the summer of 2019 without taking part in European elections or undermining the parliament.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. The Financial Times has discussed the growth forecasts for the UK, highlighting how economists are publishing multiple predictions based on different outcomes due to the lack of clarity over Brexit.
  2. A Brexit legal dispute in which the European Medicines Agency, which is moving to Amsterdam after Brexit, is trying to get out of a £500 million office lease it agreed with Canary Wharf Group in 2011 is due to be heard in court this week, amid fears that this could open the floodgates to companies wriggling out of multimillion-pound property contracts.
  3. The comprehensive defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit vision subdued markets in Asia, with sterling expected to remain volatile until the result of Wednesday’s no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister is known.
  4. Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket, is renting refrigerated containers for the remainder of the year to increase the amount of frozen food it can store to mitigate some of the potential disruption from a disorderly Brexit.
  5. Ireland’s accounting watchdog has written to the UK’s largest audit firms, urging them to start preparing for a no-deal Brexit to minimise disruption to their businesses from 29th
  6. France has announced a €50m contingency plan for its ports and airports to cope with a possible no deal Brexit, saying it would allow UK companies and professionals to continue operating on French soil.
  7. Britain has failed to finalise most trade deals needed to replace the EU’s 40 existing agreements with leading global economies and will not be close to doing to by Marth 29th according to an internal Whitehall memo.
  8. Business lobby groups have insisted that there is no point delaying the UK’s departure from the EU unless politicians forge a consensus on a Brexit plan B.
  9. The Financial Times has discussed ONS data which shows that UK retail sales fell in December, remaining cautious ahead of leaving the EU bloc.
  10. For the UKTPO, Dr Peter Holmes has argued that replacing Theresa May’s deal with some form of free trade agreement would not solve the Irish border issue.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

Professor Jonathan Harris has claimed that corporations will move away from using English law dispute resolution clauses as a “no deal” Brexit becomes more likely.

Immigration

The High Court has been told that millions of EU citizens could find it difficult to assert their right to remain in the UK after Brexit under Home Office rules denying them access to their own personal records.

Education

Years of rapid growth in enrolments of EU students at UK universities reversed in the 2017-18 academic year, as concerns over Brexit outweighed advantages.

 Election

The Vote Leave campaign group has lost a bid to bring a High Court challenge against the Electoral Commission for publishing a report in July last year following an investigation into spending by leave-supporting groups during the EU referendum campaign.

Environment

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Committee has written to Defra Minister Thérèse Coffey MP highlighting renewed concerns about the Government’s ill-preparedness to take on the regulation of chemicals and maintain chemical trade after Brexit.

Events

  1. The United Kingdom Association for European Law in conjunction with the Bar European Group is holding an event on 30th January considering the future after Brexit – in particular the Wightman ruling in relation to revocability and constitutional implications, and the implications for trade and sectoral regulation.