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Brexit round up – Week commencing 18 March 2019

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. Philippe Sands QC has written an article for The Guardian, arguing that Geoffrey Cox has no grounds to change his mind on the Northern Ireland backstop.
  2. Sam Fowles has written an article for the UK Constitutional Law Association Blog, discussing the key legal issues in extending the notice under art 50. Meanwhile DEXEU has issued guidance on the parameters of extending art 50.
  3. The UK in a Changing Europe and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law have published a document explaining the Brexit votes.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. Philip Hammond has warned that the third vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal is MPs’ ‘final chance’ to agree the deal or they will face a long delay to the UK’s departure from the EU.
  2. Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, who resigned in protest against the prime minister’s Brexit deal, has confirmed she now plans to vote for it this week, raising hopes that it could yet be approved. Similarly she has received a boost as Lord Trimble, who has been a strong critic of the backstop, has stated that she has secured ‘substantive changes’ to the plan. However Jim Wells, the DUP’s former Minister for Health in the NI Assembly, has predicted that even if the party backs Theresa May’s Brexit plan in a third Commons vote it will be defeated because of the number of Conservative rebels. Boris Johnson has urged Brexiteers to vote against the deal for the third time as he considers it does not have any ‘real’ backstop changes.
  3. Theresa May is pinning her hopes of pushing her Brexit deal through the House of Commons in winning over the DUP in last minute talks. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s farmers have urged the DUP to back the deal.
  4. However on Monday afternoon John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, ruled out a third vote, saying that Theresa May cannot bring her deal back to parliament without ‘substantial changes’, leading ministers to accuse the speaker of ‘sabotage’. In response, Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, has insisted the Prime Minister may be able to hold another vote on her Brexit deal if she agrees the terms of an art 50 extension with the EU. Meanwhile the EU has asked for clarity.
  5. The EU is set to offer Theresa May a helping hand after her plan for a new meaningful vote was derailed, by formally agreeing on a new delayed Brexit date at this week’s summit and keeping it on offer until shortly before midnight on 29 March. Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s spokesman has stated that Theresa May believes the UK has slid into political crisis, and has confirmed she will be writing to EU leaders to request a delay to Brexit. Despite the EU stance hardening on this, with France ruling out an automatic extension, Theresa May has written to them on this basis, but the length of delay to be asked for has caused a split in Cabinet, also reported in the Financial Times. Jean-Claude Juncker has raised the prospect of an emergency summit of EU leaders next week to decide on a Brexit delay, blaming ongoing chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.
  6. Parliament’s magazine, The House, has interviewed Nigel Dodds, leader of the DUP at Westminster, who has stated that his party will not waver on its red lines.
  7. At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, EU leaders are likely to tell Theresa May that she must decide by mid-April whether to extend Brexit until 2020 or risk leaving in three months without a deal.
  8. In a speech from Downing Street, Theresa May addressed the country, stating that the public has ‘had enough’ of the political in-fighting which has left her Brexit strategy in tatters and the UK barely a week away from leaving the bloc without a deal. This blaming of MPs for the Brexit stalemate has prompted a backlash from MPs, with Dominic Grieve stating that he has ‘never been more ashamed’ to be a Conservative. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative MPs’ ‘1922 committee’, has reportedly told Theresa May that MPs want her to stand down over her handling of Brexit.
  9. A People’s Vote march is planned for 23rd March, with campaign organisers claiming two hundred coaches have been booked to take people to London, and that the march will exceed the size of last October’s rally, when it was claimed 700,000 turned up.
  10. At the EU summit, the EU is planning its next move in the face of the lack of clarity over Brexit caused by the UK’s uncertainty. However it has been adopting contingency measures for a no-deal scenario.
  11. Following the prime minister’s speech to the public and trip to Brussels, the EU has taken over the Brexit timetable, giving Theresa May until the 12th April to get her deal passed, with a third vote on the deal likely next week. If it passes the UK will stay a member state until 22nd May to allow necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed; if it does not pass the Government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period if it can both ‘indicate a way forward’ and agree to hold European elections.
  12. Remain ministers have warned the Prime Minister that they are prepared to quit unless she gives them a free vote on a new backbench bid to stop no deal.
  13. Officials have stated that Britain’s armed forces have set up a team in a nuclear-proof bunker underneath the Ministry of Defence as part of preparations for a no-deal Brexit, meaning they will be ready to be deployed to take on roles such as helping to transport food, fuel and other goods.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. A ruling by the European Security and Markets Authority has sparked conflict with the FCA in stating the European banks and asset managers will have to trade some of the UK’s biggest stocks, including Vodafone and Royal Dutch Shell, in the EU in the UK leaves the bloc without a deal next week.
  2. The CBI has reported on its monthly Industrial Trends Survey, finding that Britain’s manufacturers are in despair at the failure of politicians to end the Brexit impasse, causing a drop in output in March as businesses cut back production.
  3. UK financial watchdogs have signed a deal with their counterparts in the EU to share information and cooperate should the UK crash out of the bloc with no deal in place.
  4. The Bank of England has remained in ‘wait and see’ mode, unanimously voting to keep interest rates at 0.75%, indicating that Brexit uncertainties are too great to provide a clear guide to the forces shaping the economy.
  5. The CBI and TUC have united to call the Brexit process a national emergency, demanding that Theresa May produce a Plan B to prevent a no deal departure from the EU.
  6. Europe’s top transport official has criticised airline groups including IAG, owner of British Airways and Iberia, for not yet submitting their plans for meeting EU rules on ownership in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority has stated that EU lawyers will lose the right to exemption from the transfer examination under a no-deal Brexit.

Employment

UK unemployment has dropped to the lowest level in more than 44 years despite mounting fears over Brexit, as employers across the country ramped up hiring at the fastest rate in more than three years.

Health

The Department of Health and Social Care has written a letter to adult social care providers giving an update on supply continuity of medicines and medical products if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

European pharmaceutical leaders have called on EU member states to do more to safeguard the supply of medicines post-Brexit, suggesting they had shown a ‘lack of focus’ by prioritising the protection of industries such as fisheries and finance.

Health minister Stephen Hammond has said the Government is committed to covering all treatments for the 180,000 British pensioners in EU countries who rely on the NHS to pay for their healthcare that began before exit day for up to 12 months afterwards in the event of no deal.

Immigration

The Guardian reports that Coram Children’s Legal Centre has warned that thousands of children could become undocumented post-Brexit, also discussed by RightsInfo.

Human Rights, Equality and Discrimination

The EU Justice Sub-Committee has launched a new short inquiry into rights after Brexit, taking evidence from the Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and a Professor of Law, UCL.

Education

The European parliament voted to guarantee funding for UK students already studying abroad on the Erasmus+ student exchange programme, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March, and promised to continue supporting European students already in the UK on the scheme. However, uncertainty hangs over the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from this September.

Universities have raised the alarm about the potential loss of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of EU grants for research from the UK in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The Financial Times reports that the percentage of overseas students making the UK their first choice for business school has increased since the EU referendum, suggesting that fears about Brexit damaging the sector were overblown.

Environment

The Welsh Government has announced that it is seeking views on how to address gaps in environmental principles and governance relating to Wales when the UK leaves the EU, with the consultation running until 9 June 2019.