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Brexit round up – Week commencing 7 January 2019

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. The House of Lords Library has published a briefing paper on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, s 13(1)(c), which sets out specific requirements that must be met before the UK could ratify the withdrawal agreement, including approval by the House of Commons—what is popularly referred to as the ‘meaningful vote’—and a debate in the House of Lords.
  2. PoliticsHome has learned that senior ministers have discussed the prospect of the break-up of the UK if there is a no-deal Brexit with both Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell issuing warnings at the Cabinet meeting.
  3. For the UK Constitutional Law Association blog, Robert Craig has discussed whether the Government can use royal prerogative to extend art 50.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. Theresa May has made another desperate plea to EU leaders to offer a concession on the Irish backstop as she attempts to win over Brexiters who have vowed to vote down the Government’s deal, and has held fresh talks with Jean-Claude Juncker. The prime minister has warned that such Brexiters are ‘risking democracy’. Meanwhile Germany’s foreign affairs minister is to fly to Dublin for Brexit talks as relations with Ireland intensify in an attempt to find a “fix” that will help Theresa May get the EU withdrawal agreement ratified.
  2. MPs are expected to hold their crucial vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal next Tuesday, with Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisting the Government still expects to win the support of parliament, despite intense pressure from both sides of the argument. Meanwhile the EU is likely to offer Theresa May an “exchange of letters” confirming the bloc’s intention to conclude trade talks with the UK by 2021, as Brussels seeks to help the Prime Minister in the run-up to next week’s Commons vote on her deal.
  3. Boris Johnson has claimed that a no-deal Brexit is the “closest to what people voted for” when they went to the polls in the 2016 EU referendum. However, more than 200 MPs from across the political divide have urged Theresa May to rule out plunging over the “cliff-edge” of a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile business minister Richard Harrington has stated that he would quit the Government to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal. Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, has said history will take “a dim view” of ministers if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement, whilst Business Secretary Greg Clark has also told MPs a no-deal exit in March “should not be contemplated”. Chris Patten, the former Conservative party chairman, is to declare support for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
  4. Defeating the Government 303 to 296, MPs backed moves to limit the Treasury’s ability to raise taxes in the event of a no-deal Brexit, demonstrating that there is a Commons majority against a no-deal Brexit.
  5. Speaker, John Bercow, allowed MPs to debate an amendment that would force Theresa May to present a new Brexit plan within three days if her current proposal is voted down in the meaningful vote, and the Government was defeated by 11 votes on this. This has, however, led to John Bercow being forced to deny anti-Brexit bias.
  6. A raft of multi-million pound Government contracts with consultancy firms on Brexit planning are to be investigated after ministers were criticised for keeping them a “secret”. Labour will join forces with rebel Tory MPs in a bid to force the Government to publish any updated legal advice on its Brexit deal.
  7. Theresa May is to make a last-ditch effort to save her Brexit deal by backing guarantees on workers’ and environmental rights demanded by Labour MPs and appealing to the leaders of the UK’s most powerful unions, Unite and GMB. She is also to offer MPs a veto over the NI backstop.
  8. Downing Street has said that if Theresa May’s deal is voted down, any debate over a Brexit plan B would be 90 minutes long and only one amendment would be allowed.
  9. Jeremy Corbyn has conceded that Labour might need to seek an extension of art 50 if the party won a snap election, to negotiate a new Brexit deal, confirming that his party’s priority is a new deal, rather than a referendum.
  10. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker is collecting support for a suggested written ministerial statement for the Government, which its backers believe would be a pathway to better withdrawal terms and an independent trade policy.
  11. Stepping up pressure on Eurosceptic Tory MPs, Jeremy Hunt has warned of the potential ‘paralysis’ of Parliament if they fail to vote in favour of May’s deal. Meanwhile the Financial Times has considered the views of eight former foreign secretaries in their opinions of where Britain should go post-Brexit.
  12. The Financial Times has argued that, with fewer than 100 days to go until the Brexit date of 29 March 2019, the likelihood of delay — and of an extension to the art 50 notification process — is on the rise. Meanwhile The Telegraph reports that British and European officials are discussing the possibility of such an extension to art 50. The Guardian has publicly come out in support of a second referendum.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. A live rehearsal of an emergency traffic system that will be put in place to prevent congestion in Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been described as “a waste of time” by drivers participating in the test in Kent as, under contingency plans it will be used as a lorry park for 6,000 lorries, but only 87 trucks participated.
  2. According to a survey of over 900 UK based members of the Chartered Management Institute, pessimism, concern and uncertainty are prevalent among UK managers as the March 29th Brexit deadline looms ever closer.
  3. Brexit uncertainty and cyber-security fears have left Britain’s manufacturers much less confident about the prospects for the UK economy than they were a year ago.
  4. According to a report by EY, financial services companies have moved almost £800bn in staff, operations and customer funds to Europe since the Brexit referendum.
  5. According to Government-commissioned research, trucks would face six-day queues to board ferries at Dover if new customs checks in the event of a no-deal Brexit were to delay each vehicle by just 70 seconds.
  6. The mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein, when asked about the UK Government’s award of a £13.8m contract to Seaborne Freight for a service between Ramsgate and Ostend stated that the Belgian port will not be ready for a new ferry line in time for Brexit.
  7. Brussels has warned IAG that its favoured plans for its airlines to continue flying freely in and around Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit do not work, in a potentially serious setback for the owner of British Airways and Iberia.
  8. The British Government has accepted that Seaborne Freight, the company awarded a contract to provide ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will be unable to deliver them before late April, weeks after the UK is due to leave the EU.
  9. To ensure millions of financial contracts will be unaffected by Brexit, the Financial Conduct Authority has stated that it will announce proposals for EU institutions with business in Britain to run down contracts over the next five years.
  10. Japanese carmakers with UK factories including Nissan, Honda and Toyota want their prime minister Shinzo Abe to stress the need to avoid a no-deal Brexit to Theresa May when they meet.
  11. The head of the CBI, Carloyn Fairbairn, has warned that Britian’s economy would shrink by up to 8% in the event of a no-deal Brexit, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

Competition and Regulatory

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published guidance on consumer rights and protection after Brexit.

Eurotunnel has accused the British Government of ‘distortionary and anti-competitive’ behaviour for awarding up to £103m to three ferry companies to provide additional cross-Channel capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Health

The Financial Times has warned that EU nurses are giving up on Brexit Britain as their prospects dim, as there was an 87% fall in the number of NHS nurses coming to the UK from the EEA last year, whilst there are 41,000 nursing vacancies in England.

The Government has signed two contracts to secure warehouse space for the storage of drugs as part of ‘no-deal’ Brexit planning but officials are still working to secure a third with just 11 weeks to go before the UK leaves the EU.

Immigration

The Government has announced that the settlement scheme for EU nationals seeking to maintain their right to live and work in the UK once it leaves the EU will be extended to more individuals later this month.

Human Rights, Equality and Discrimination

The Independent reports that a no-deal Brexit would breach the UK’s human rights.

Science and Technology

Ofcom has published technical guidance for broadcasters and on demand providers on arrangements for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, setting out how these arrangements would work in practice, to help broadcasters and on demand providers prepare for any changes.