Brexit Briefing: "End of May" - situation report on lack of options to avoid 'no-deal' on 31 October

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, stated yesterday that he wishes to remain in post for several months more.

His decision may prove pivotal to the options that will be open to MPs and their ability to steer the nation through the choices, decision making process, and the very shape of Brexit.

Without the intervention of the Speaker, MPs who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit have no constitutional path to block or delay such an outcome.

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Brexit Briefing: Talks continue in Westminster as Brussels thinks odds of no Brexit are now 30%

Cross-party talks continue this week.  While there has been progress on reaching an agreement on content – to the point that the Cabinet Secretary, Ollie Robins, has been dispatched to Brussels to explore making changes to the Political Declaration within the Prime Minister’s ‘deal’ – it appears that political and ideological differences may preclude a Parliamentary majority for the Withdrawal Agreement.  In this case, the UK will leave the EU with no-deal on 31 October.

Meanwhile as European politicians express their support for UK remaining as a member of the EU, European Council President, Donald Tusk, thinks the odds of ‘remain’ have increased to 30%.

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Brexit Briefing: Updated EU views on Brexit - as Government concludes its attempt to find a deal that is acceptable to opposition and Parliament

This week sees the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s attempt to agree an approach on Brexit with the Labour party.  This would then go back to the House of Commons for a vote.

If these talks do not succeed, the Prime Minister - in consultation with opposition - will put a ‘small number’ of ‘options for the future relationship with the EU’ to the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the other 27 EU Member States have maintained a largely united front in the Brexit negotiations and in maintaining that the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement should not be re-opened.  A report published last week examines the views of each of the EU27 on Brexit - and their contingency planning for a possible no-deal Brexit.  It also provides background on their internal politics and trade and economic statistics.

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Brexit Briefing: This week in Parliament and an update on the £39bn financial settlement

Another quiet week for Brexit business in Parliament – most important are two key Committee meetings: the ‘Brexit’ Committee will hear from four experts on the issue of customs unions, trade and Brexit; and the Prime Minister will be questioned by the ‘Liaison’ Committee.

Behind the scenes, talks between the Government and the Official Opposition to find a single unified approach on Brexit continue this week.

Meanwhile, there has never been any dispute that there are mutual financial commitments between the UK and EU to be settled following Brexit. We post an update on how the Brexit delay will impact on the formula and the provisional estimate that the UK will owe £39bn as a leaving settlement.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Brexit: the week ahead as Parliament returns from its Easter Recess on ‘St. George’s Day’

Talks between the Opposition and the Government re-commence to try to find a “single unified approach” – that is, one that can secure the support of a majority in the House of Commons.  The Prime Minister has said that if such an approach cannot be found ‘soon’: “we will seek to agree a small number of options for the future relationship that we will put to the House in a series of votes”.

And a recently published Parliamentary ‘briefing paper’ provides an overview of current medicines regulation in the UK and EU; on Brexit negotiations so far on this issue; and views on future regulation.  It looks at the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit scenario - and the state of Government preparations for this scenario.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Businesses are in limbo - losing investment, losing customers and incurring additional costs with Brexit delay

Business and commerce should not stand down their no-deal contingency planning for the next six weeks.  They can and should, however, now factor ‘continued UK trading on EU terms’ into medium-term strategy planning and budgeting thought to 2021.

Our call has been further endorsed by the views of MakeUK Managing Director, Simon Phipson. “MakeUK” is the ‘new name’ for the EEF and represents over 5000 UK manufacturers.  

We also included a briefing for MPs in support of our conclusions on the probabilities of the main scenarios open to the UK. 

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Increasing probability of continued EU membership to end of 2019 means business can factor this into medium-term planning

It is ‘highly probable’ that the UK will take part in the European Parliament elections on 23 May.  It looks ‘increasingly likely’ that the UK will be a full member of the European Union until at least the end of October 2019 – and possibly to the end of 2020.

This post sets out the thinking behind the call to pick up the momentum on strategy planning – and some of the process and timing of events on the political front to avoid them causing distraction or an excuse for continuing to ‘wait and see what transpires’ before acting.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Countdown to Brexit: Bang…zero; fifty; seventy-nine; 202 days; sometime; never…

The risk of a delay is the continuing drain of business confidence as the uncertainty goes on for another 6 months.  As if to underline the point, civil servants have been told to ‘shelve’ preparations for a no-deal Brexit with immediate effect.  It is estimated that 16,000 personnel have been moved to departments impacted by Brexit – at a cost of £4 billion.

‘Project Yellowhammer’ – the Government Cobra Committee overseeing emergency responses to a no-deal Brexit has been disbanded.

Having posted daily insights counting down to Brexit from 100 days – with a reset at B – 4 to B -14 on the first extension from 29 March to 12 April, this will be the last daily post for a while.  There is a new countdown.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Countdown to Brexit: 1 day – Crack…the sound of nerves breaking

Brexit countdown will re-set once the formalities of changing “exit day” are complete – both under the Treaty on the European Union and in UK domestic law.

The European Union, now fully in control of the timetable, will decide the date when it suits best interests of the 27 remaining EU member nations.  There are a couple of dates built in as checkpoints, but the next major milestone is 31 October 2019.

When Theresa May said in the early hours of this morning in Brussels, following the marathon 6 hour European Council meeting that: “the next few months will not be easy” is somewhat of an understatement.

Broadly, the Prime Minister has six options to break the deadlock and allow the nation to progress, pick up some of the lost momentum on domestic and global issues and plan for a post-Brexit world.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Countdown to Brexit: 2 days – Creak…audible signs of Brexit stress

European President, Donald Tusk, reported on the outcome of the Council summit and it’s subsequent meeting with Prime Minister, Theresa at 02:15 local time. "Let me finish with a message to our British friends: This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it's still enough to find the best possible solution.  Please do not waste this time."

3 elements of the EU offer to UK for a Brexit extension:

  • “only as long as necessary” - and "no longer than 31 October."  Time has been granted for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement;

  • The UK "must hold the elections to the European Parliament" on 23 May.  If it fails to do this, the UK will leave on 1 June – “deal or no-deal”;

  • There is no possibility of re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations.

In the run up to this evening’s emergency European Council meeting, specially convened to decide the fate of Brexit, reports from across Europe expect the request for a Brexit delay to 30 June to be rejected.  Leaders of the remaining EU27 nations were split between those who support a Brexit delay until 31 December this year - and those who think the end of March 2020 would be “safest”.

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John ShuttleworthComment
Countdown to Brexit: 3 days – Squeak...Theresa May must now decide as Brexit options are further squeezed between Parliament and the European Union

At 10:38 last night, MP Yvette Cooper’s ‘European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill’ passed into law, receiving Royal Assent in record time. The Act restricts the Prime Minister’s discretion about whether and when to seek an extension to the two-year negotiating period under Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union.

As Theresa May set off for meetings with in Germany with the Chancellor and France with the President ahead of tomorrow’s European Council meeting, Michel Barnier, following his visit to Ireland, yesterday, was in Luxembourg to brief a meeting of EU Ministers: "The Withdrawal Agreement is not going to be reopened, is not up for negotiation again. That continues to be the case.”

The cross-party talks between the Government and Labour Party remain at an ‘impasse’ meaning UK has not yet met the criteria for an extension beyond 12 April.

European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan announces latest EU preparations for a possible ‘no-deal’ scenario for agriculture - updates on no-deal tariff that will apply and financial support for EU 27 farmers that may be suffer losses due to Brexit.

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Countdown to Brexit: 4 days – Quiet...before the storm

A quick glance at this week in Parliament looks scarily quiet.  The House of Lords pick up the debate on the ‘Yvette Cooper’ Bill today - and the only scheduled Brexit business in the Commons are ‘questions and debates’ on six ‘Statutory Instruments’.

The European Council is scheduled to hold an emergency Council meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening when they will decide the fate of Brexit. 

if no extension to Article 50 is offered and agreed, UK leaves the EU at 11pm local time (BST) on Friday.  EU Law instantly removes UK as a member of the bloc.  The EU Withdrawal Act, 2018, transfers all EU law existing at that instant into UK Law.

Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, warned MPs last week that: “it is likely that we may need to sit on Friday of next week” - sounds like an understatement.

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