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Brexit weekly round up – Week commencing 18 September 2017

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has branded the pursuit of a hard Brexit “a kind of religious fundamentalism”, whilst comparing Westminster’s approach to the devolved nations over Brexit to the attitude of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to the Eastern Bloc states.
  2. The Scottish and Welsh administrations have demanded major changes to the UK’s Brexit withdrawal bill, stating that Westminster should not be allowed to seize powers devolved nearly two decades ago. Meanwhile the Government has responded to the report of the European Union Committee on Brexit: devolution.
  3. European parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has suggested that Northern Ireland could continue to be in the Single Market or Customs Union after the UK leaves the EU, though his proposal for special status for the region has been met with immediate opposition from unionists who said they would never accept any deal that made Northern Ireland different from the rest of the UK.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. In a letter published in The Telegraph, Boris Johnson has repeated the controversial claim that the UK will be able to spend £350m a week more on the NHS post-Brexit.  The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove has also expressed surprise and disappointment at the Foreign Secretary’s claim, to which Johnson reacted stating that Sir Norgrove is engaging in “wilful distortion” of his article.
  2. This has prompted a backlash, with Amber Rudd condemning Johnson as “backseat driving”. Some Conservative MPs have called for him to be sacked after he set out his vision for Brexit just days before Theresa May’s Florence speech. Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary’s contribution has led to an even more frustrated EU. Other MPs, including Michael Gove, have supported the Foreign Secretary.
  3. According to officials, Angela Merkel was told by the British Government to expect Theresa May’s speech in Florence to contain an offer of €20bn to fill a post-Brexit budget whole, in the UK’s first attempt to settle the divorce bill. This has reportedly led Boris Johnson to back away from his threat to quit the Cabinet. However, The Independent has reported that no European Commission officials would attend the speech. In the speech, Theresa May proposed a two-year implementation period. This has been analysed, amongst others, by Laura Kuenssberg and the Financial Times.
  4. The Financial Times has denounced as frustrating Theresa May’s silence as to the benefits of Brexit. However, the paper has also considered that Theresa May has acted to tighten her grip on the negotiations in making Olly Robbins answerable only to her and belittling Boris Johnson’s intervention. Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer has stated that Brussels fears an enfeebled Theresa May will not be able to stand by any pledges she makes in this week’s major speech on Brexit but has dismissed Boris Johnson’s intervention as an irrelevance. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has claimed that Brexit will be as big a disaster as the Iraq war and the financial crash.
  5. The Commons Exiting the EU Select Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry into the progress of the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
  6. For the LSE Brexit Blog, Jane Green and Will Jennings consider whether Brexit will repeat the collapse in public confidence in the Conservative party to manage policy issues seen on Black Wednesday. Meanwhile Risto Penttila has argued that we should look to history to show the way to an amicable Brexit, and not repeat the imposition of harsh conditions as seen at Versailles in 1919.
  7. In response to a request by Molly Scott Cato MEP, Steve Baker MP has stated that DEXEU will not publish its analysis of sectors which will be impacted by Brexit as this would harm the UK’s negotiating capital.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. Nicky Morgan, head of the Commons Treasury select committee, has warned that Brexit could leave British expats without their pensions, while insurance policies are also seen to be at risk.
  2. On a trip to Canada, discussion of a post-Brexit trade deal will top Theresa May’s agenda with Justin Trudeau. However she has been warned that over £2bn worth of UK exports to Canada are at risk from Brexit. Nonetheless, The Telegraph has reported that Canada’s trade deal with the EU will form the basis of a post-Brexit, unilateral trade deal.
  3. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has branded Brexit as an example of deglobalisation. Meanwhile the chief of HMRC has warned that post-Brexit border and tax checks could cost up to £800m.
  4. The CBI has stated that more than 100 firms employing over one million people in the UK and elsewhere in the EU, have written to David Davis and Michel Barnier, underlying the importance of making urgent progress in the next round of Brexit talks. Meanwhile the Financial Times has argued that businesses will need practical aid such as lightening the paperwork burden of new borders to prepare for Brexit.
  5. Trade minister Greg Hands has stated that the post-Brexit focus must be on big agreements as the UK has ‘no capacity’ for quick new trade deals with smaller countries.
  6. Three economists have written an article on The Conversation blog, arguing that the UK can benefit from free trade post-Brexit, even outside the single market.
  7. Official analysis revealing there were more than 110 million crossings over the Northern Irish border last year indicates the scale of disruption that a post-Brexit hard border could cause.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

Criminal

Amber Rudd has proposed a new UK-EU security treaty that is not conditional on success of the Brexit talks, with David Davis suggesting that security links with the EU should be formalised to ensure that Brexit does not impact the fight against terrorism.

Health

Following their joint conference the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the BioIndustry Association (BIA) issued a report highlighting the need to support innovation across the UK life sciences industry to help develop the novel medicines, devices and healthcare arrangements the NHS needs to respond to Brexit.

Immigration

Vince Cable has condemned the UK’s treatment of EU nationals as ‘appalling’, suggesting that it will lead to an ‘exodus’ of Europeans.

It has been reported in PoliticsHome that Theresa May is abandoning plans which would have forced UK companies to prove they could not find British workers before taking on EU employees in the wake of ‘cabinet pressure’.

Environment

Scottish farmers have called for the curbs on pesticides to be eased post-Brexit.