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Brexit round up – Week commencing 28 January 2019

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride has stated that he believes a border poll on the reunification of Ireland, and a fresh drive for Scottish independence, will happen unless MPs support the withdrawal agreement struck between Theresa May and Brussels.
  2. Guglielmo Verdirame and Richard Ekins have claimed that Brussels would be breaking international law if the EU insisted that the UK had no right of unilateral withdrawal from the proposed Brexit backstop.
  3. A change in EU law guaranteeing visa-free travel for Britons in Europe after Brexit has sparked a diplomatic row after Brussels, on the insistence of Spain, described Gibraltar as “a colony of the British Crown” in its no-deal legislation.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. Boris Johnson has written in The Telegraph that Theresa May could fix her Brexit deal, if she fights back against Brussels. However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has stated that there will be no change to the Brexit backstop and it cannot be replaced with an “aspirational” hope or commitment to avoid the return of a hard Border in Ireland. Meanwhile Downing Street has refused to say which Brexit amendments it could support in a series of votes, as it increasingly appears Theresa May believes it is up to the EU to deliver a departure agreement by giving ground on the Irish backstop.
  2. Justice Secretary David Gauke has called for a free vote on Brexit, and has suggested that he could quit the Government if a no-deal Brexit is an option. Meanwhile The Telegraph has reported that remain-backing ministers have held a conference call, stating that Theresa May must secure her Brexit deal within a fortnight to retain their support.
  3. The Financial Times has considered how the EU will respond to a request to delay Brexit. Meanwhile Andrea Leadsom has suggested that Brussels could grant the UK a “couple of extra weeks” to prepare the country before Brexit without extending the official timetable.
  4. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has warned against a second referendum, stating that the public ‘don’t want’ an art 50 extension.
  5. The Exiting the European Union Committee has published a report stating that a no deal ‘cannot be allowed to happen’ and that MPs ‘must’ be given the chance to vote on extending art 50. Meanwhile the EU has rejected a plan suggested by rival Conservative MPs which would have involved paying the £39bn EU divorce bill, redrafting the backstop arrangements over the Irish border and extending the implementation period until December 2021.
  6. The Sunday Times reports that the UK is ready to declare martial law to avert no-deal Brexit chaos.
  7. The Guardian has compiled a list of the amendments tabled prior to the Brexit bill debate on Tuesday. A major amendment was tabled by Yvette Cooper to allow backbenchers to seize control of the parliamentary timetable in a bid to delay Brexit, though this ultimately was not passed. The Brady amendment, aimed at replacing the backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’ and backed by Theresa May, did pass the Commons but was rejected immediately by the EU.
  8. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have discussed whether a post-Brexit customs union could deal with the unpopular Irish backstop in a ‘serious and engaged’ hour-long meeting at the prime minister’s office in the House of Commons.
  9. Senior Tory officials are reportedly to tell Theresa May that they will accept a two month Brexit delay, but warn that a hold up beyond that would be a ‘betrayal’ of the EU referendum result. Sir Graham Brady has accepted that Brexit may need to be delayed. However, the Prime Minister is facing fresh fury from her backbenchers amid claims she is stalling on a promise to shake up her Brexit negotiating team and Olly Robbins has remained in post.
  10. Parliament’s half-term recess has been cancelled so that MPs can work through Brexit legislation.
  11. Labour MPs are angry that Jeremy Corbyn has no plans to discipline the eight shadow ministers who failed to back an amendment to block a no-deal Brexit.
  12. Theresa May is putting together a package of measures aimed at wooing Labour MPs in leave-supporting constituencies, offering greater protection for workers’ rights after Brexit and, extra spending for more deprived regions. However, this offer of a cash injection has incensed some Labour MPs.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. The Treasury Committee has launched a new inquiry into the future of the UK’s financial services once the UK has left the EU.
  2. Leading retail bosses, including the chief executives of Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Waitrose, have written to the Government warning of significant disruption to food supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit, meaning there would be shortages and price rises.
  3. According to two leading EU law specialists, the UK will be unable to have frictionless, tariff-free trade under World Trade Organization rules for up to seven years in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  4. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has issued guidance to assist local authority preparedness for Brexit and announced that it will provide £56.5m in financial support to councils in England.
  5. The FT has reported that the UK is making slow progress in renegotiating the hundreds of agreements that the EU has with other countries around the world, with UK officials admitting that only 21 replacement accords are ready.
  6. Businesses have expressed frustration over May’s plan to rewrite the Brexit deal due to the resulting uncertainty, whilst Wizz Air boss Jozsef Varadi has blamed the Brexit uncertainty for its nosediving profits.
  7. The Institute of Directors has stated that nearly a third of firms are looking to shift operations abroad due to Brexit.
  8. EU and UK financial regulators have agreed a deal that will help protect Britain’s £7.7tn asset management industry in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  9. UK manufacturers are stockpiling goods at the fastest rate since records began 27 years ago as companies brace for a chaotic Brexit.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

Criminal

A leaked report shows police fears that a “no-deal” Brexit would lead to a shortage of goods, resulting in civil disorder.

Data Protection

The ICO has published a blog post discussing how personal data will continue to flow after Brexit.

Health

The Department of Health and Social Care has published its latest advice for people travelling to the UK, European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland after 29 March 2019 in terms of EHIC cards and travel insurance to cover any healthcare requirements.

Matt Hancock has blocked plans by the NHS to cancel some blood donation sessions after health chiefs claimed a no-deal Brexit would force them to be scrapped.

Immigration

The Home Office has outlined the arrangements for EU citizens under no deal, where they will be able to enter the UK to visit, work or study after 29 March 2019, but for stays longer than three months, European Temporary Leave to Remain will be required.

Buzzfeed has reported that Government assessments have stated that between 50,000 and 250,000 British expats currently living in the EU may return to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, potentially putting significant pressure on already-stretched public services.

Human Rights, Equality and Discrimination

Rights Info has published an article discussing what it means and how it will impact our rights that the Government is drawing up plans to impose martial law in the event of the UK exiting the EU without a deal.

Education

Labour has blasted the Government after it emerged misconduct sanctions imposed on teachers in Europe will not be shared with UK authorities after a no-deal Brexit.

Election

The Electoral Commission has warned that rules underpinning referendums must be updated before a second EU vote can take place to ensure lessons are learned from the 2016 campaign.

The Information Commissioner has launched an audit into Leave.EU and the insurance company owned by the campaign’s key financial backer, Arron Banks, after fining the organisations a total of £120,000 for data protection violations during the EU referendum campaign.

Environment

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has published guidance on how to comply with pesticide regulations after Brexit.

Science and Technology

Businesses based in the UK that own websites rooted at the ‘.eu’ domain will have two months from the point of Brexit to transfer ownership to sister companies in the EU in a ‘no deal’ scenario.

Family

In The Times, Teertha Gupta QC has argued that a no-deal Brexit would leave children vulnerable as a long tradition of cross-border co-operation and recognition of judgments would be abandoned.

The Law Society has issued guidance for family law practitioners in the event of a no-deal Brexit.