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Brexit weekly round up – Week commencing 26 Feb 2018

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

Brexit and the UK constitution

  1. Pushpinder Saini QC from Blackstone Chambers has stated that the Government’s bill for exiting the EU contains “Trump-like powers”.
  2. The row over the post-Brexit customs arrangements on the island of Ireland has reignited after leaked plans look set to divide the UK. Theresa May sought a phone call with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ahead of the publication. Downing Street has sought to play down comments made by Boris Johnson comparing post-Brexit Irish border checks to the London congestion charge, stating that the Foreign Secretary was not offering a ‘technical solution’.
  3. In a major speech in north Wales, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington has given details of a proposal under which the “vast majority” of returning powers would start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast rather than Whitehall, though the UK Government is to retain control over certain aspects of law-making which are normally devolved when there is a need to protect trade within the UK or meet international obligations.
  4. Spain is demanding joint management of Gibraltar’s airport after Britain leaves the EU, spelling out its position on an issue “that could derail a Brexit deal”.
  5. On Thursday, Tony Blair called on the European Union to change its rules around freedom of movement as part of a bid to halt Brexit.
  6. The Times [paywall] reports that Lord Briggs of Westbourne, a justice in the UK Supreme Court, said that if Brexit uncertainties led to a “large shift” in the balance between the courts on the one hand and arbitration and alternative dispute resolution on the other, open justice could be the “inevitable victim”.

The UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU

  1. During the course of the week, Theresa May’s emerging position on Brexit came immediately under fire with pro-Europeans from both Labour and Conservatives joined to demand that Britain stay in a customs union with the EU. However a Tory Brexiteer has warned Theresa May that ‘selling out’ over the Customs Union will trigger a leadership contest. Mrs May vowed to strike “the most ambitious trade deal with the EU that the world has ever seen” after Brexit.
  2. European Commission chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gave a speech at BusinessEurope Day 2018 setting out the EU’s priorities for a ‘global Europe’. Barnier reiterated the EU’s priority for the Brexit negotiations is to ensure an orderly withdrawal in accordance with the phased approach agreed in the original terms of reference.
  3. Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to outflank the Conservatives by placing “a customs union” firmly on the table if Labour took over Brexit negotiations, triggering a cautious welcome from industry representatives. However, David Davis has accused Jeremy Corbyn of ‘selling snake oil’ over his Brexit stance, and there is a risk Corbyn could alienate some core supporters by appearing to shift Labour’s stance. The Liberal Democrats have branded the Labour leader the “loyal opposition” – Brexit spokesman Tom Brake MP claiming: “His slight movement on the Customs Union and some EU agencies might be one step on the road to rationality, but there is still a long way to go before the rhetoric meets reality”. In response to Labour’s recent pronouncements, campaigner Gina Miller is appealing for EU citizens to vote Liberal Democrat.
  4. On Friday, Theresa May “set out her vision for Brexit and the UK’s future relationship with the European Union in a highly-anticipated speech at London’s Mansion House. Stop press: There was a huge amount of media coverage (selection available here).
  5. The House of Commons Library has published a briefing summarising the UK and EU positions on the transition period. The Director General of the ABI has stated that the Government must stop ‘over complicating’ a transitional deal and agree a ‘straightforward transition now’.
  6. The Home Office released a statement entitled “EU citizens arriving in the UK during the implementation period“. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, issued a statement on behalf of the Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group.
  7. David Davis has reportedly assured Conservative MPs the UK will not pay the multi-billion pound Brexit divorce bill unless Brussels backs down in the row over Northern Ireland.
  8. The Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has met academics and representatives of think tanks to discuss options for the UK’s legal interactions with the EU post-Brexit.
  9. The House of Lords EU Committee has written to David Davis MP, criticising “an inadequate Government response to its letter on the implications of Brexit for the Overseas Territories”.
  10. Retaining existing regulatory frameworks is the only way to give the UK’s car industry a “realistic chance of survival”, according to the latest report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.
  11. The European Commission published the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK.

Impact of Brexit on the economy

  1. Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has opened the door for Dublin to increase state aid to the Irish agrifood industry as the sector steels itself for a ‘worst-case’ Brexit where WTO tariffs are imposed on exports to the UK.
  2. The chair of the Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan, has hit out at the Government over its ‘extraordinary’ response to a report on transitional arrangements for British businesses due to failing to provide firms with details needed to prepare for Brexit.
  3. Liam Fox has criticised former chief civil servant Sir Martin Donnelly, for “sticking to the patterns of the past” by saying the UK would be damaged for diverging from the EU after Brexit with divergence from EU being like swapping a three-course meal for a packet of crisps.

Brexit as it affects Practice Areas:

Competition and Regulatory

The Financial Times has argued that the UK’s hopes for mutual recognition agreements reflect wishful thinking, considering the potential post-Brexit regulation.

Immigration

The Home Office released a statement “EU citizens arriving in the UK during the implementation period“.

Environment

Michael Gove has revealed plans to shift subsidies from rich farmers to environmental schemes after Brexit.