Countdown to Brexit: 18 days – This week in Parliament as the countdown to Brexit clock is reset

If “Meaningful Vote 3” is held and agreed before 12 April, the UK will have 40 days to finalise the legislative and practical steps necessary to implement the ‘deal’ as it was negotiated between the UK and EU - and agreed in the draft Treaty with Europe in November 2018.

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act comes into effect - and the easiest part of Brexit is concluded.  The more difficult negotiations – set within the framework of the Political Declaration - can begin.

If the deal is not agreed this week, the Government "will indicate a way forward before 12 April 2019".

The ‘default’ option remains the UK leaving the EU with no-deal with a revised date of 12 April.

In considering when to hold the MV3, the Government will have to be ‘mindful’ of the Speaker's Statement last Monday, when he said that they cannot bring forward the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as the one defeated for a second time on 12 March.  The Government has also indicated that it will not hold MV3 unless it is sure to win.

And at some time in the next 3 days, “Exit Day" – presently defined in law in the EU Withdrawal Act as 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019 - needs to be amended so that the date in UK law is aligned with the end date of the extension period agreed with the EU.  This can be done by a ‘Statutory Instrument’ which needs to be laid before Parliament and voted through in both Houses of Parliament.

A report from the ‘EU Select Committee’, published today, highlights a “Brexit paradox”.  ‘Beyond Brexit: how to win friends and influence people’ finds that, paradoxically, the UK will need to devote significantly more resources to lobbying and engaging with the EU Institutions after Brexit, if it is to ensure an effective relationship with its most significant trading partner.  The report concludes that the UK Government diplomatic representation in Brussels will need to be increased.

Monday 25 March: the House of Commons starts it’s Brexit work with a debate on a motion relating to Section 13(4) of the EU (Withdrawal Act) 2018.   The Prime Minister gave a statement reporting back on the European Council meeting in Brussels last week – and confirmed that the unanimous agreement of the Heads of State of the remaining EU 27 nations has been enacted into ‘international law’.

Key in the Prime Minister’s statement was her focus on one of the two parts of the ‘deal’ – the Withdrawal Agreement.  There was no mention of the ‘Political Declaration’ – the framework for negotiating the future relationship between the UK and EU.  Speculation is rising that the ‘deal’ could be split into two parts – ask Parliament to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, exit the EU and move into the ‘transition period’ – and then renegotiate the Political Declaration – which, in any event, was a loosely defined ‘framework’.

A list of seven amendments have been selected by the Speaker for vote after the Government led debate.

The Labour Party amendment (d) is on the list and refers to ‘Common Market 2.0’.  We have included a short explanation of what this means in the Background section, below.

The ‘Housing, Communities and Local Government’ Committee is taking evidence on Brexit and Local Government.

Tuesday 26 March: the Commons are due to consider Lords amendments to the ‘Healthcare (International Arrangements)’ Bill - one of the bills that the Government needs to pass before the UK leaves the EU.  We will post a detailed briefing on this.

 Wednesday 27 March: three ‘EU Exit’ Statutory Instruments are due to be debated in the Commons on: ‘Food additives’, ‘Extraterritorial Application of Third Country Legislation’, and on ‘Animal Health and Plant Health’.  

The ‘Exiting the EU Committee’ will be taking evidence on the progress of the negotiations and the role of Parliament.

The ‘EFRA’ Committee will be take evidence as part of their inquiry into ‘Is Defra ready for Brexit?’ Witnesses include Michael Gove MP, Defra Secretary of State

The ‘Northern Ireland Affairs’ Committee will be taking evidence from Ministers.

The ‘Foreign Affairs’ Committee continue their inquiry into ‘Global Britain: The future of UK sanctions policy’.

Thursday 28 March: No Brexit activity is currently scheduled.  The ‘Business Statement’ from the Leader of the House at 10.30am might give an indication of what the House of Commons will be discussing in the following week.

Friday 29 March: the House of Commons is not currently scheduled to sit on Friday.


‘Common Market 2.0’ and ‘Norway Plus’?

A cross-party group of MPs - including Labour’s Stephen Kinnock MP and the Conservative’s Nick Boles MP - have put forward an alternative Brexit plan, variously known as ‘Common Market 2.0’ or ‘Norway Plus’.  

The plan would see the UK exiting the EU but retaining a close economic relationship with it through membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).   The UK would remain in the ‘single market’ but would be outside the jurisdiction of the EU’s political institutions - including the European Court of Justice and the Common Fisheries Policies.  

The UK would stay in a temporary ‘customs union’ with the EU while other arrangements are being negotiated to preserve a soft border in Ireland – this is the ‘plus’ part of ‘Norway plus’.  

One significant caveat is that the UK would have to accept the free movement of people from the EU, something which the Prime Minister regards as unacceptable.  However, the MPs who back Norway Plus say that the UK would have the power to suspend free movement if it is having “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.  

Its sponsors believe that should Mrs May’s ‘deal’ be rejected by the House of Commons, ‘Norway Plus’ is the most sensible, and politically viable, alternative.  It now has the backing of the Labour Party and subject to an amendment vote in Parliament today, Monday 25 March.

And in case you missed it – a round up of last weeks’ headlines

On Thursday 20 March, the UK requested an extension to the Article 50 period.  The European Council agreed an extension with two strands:

If the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019, Article 50 will be extended until 22 May 2019.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019, the period will be extended until 12 April 2019.

If the UK wishes to apply for a longer delay, it must decide and do so by 12 April.  If it is granted by the EU, the UK will need to participate in the European Parliament elections on 23 May. 

This longer delay is, once again, dependent on unanimous agreement from all other EU leaders - thought to be unlikely unless there is a significant shift in negotiating strategy

A group of cross-party MPs plan to lay an amendment for indicative votes which would allow parliament to take control of the process by voting on a range of options

Failure to pass the negotiated ‘deal’ and the delay to Brexit are putting Theresa May’s premiership under intense pressure.  Potential successors appear to be positioning themselves for a leadership contest

Toyota has announced that it is to produce a new Suzuki model at a plant in Derbyshire

New investment by sovereign wealth funds in the UK fell by 91% in 2018

The clothing retailer Next has announced that it could lower prices in a no-deal Brexit scenario to reflect the savings from reduced trade tariffs

A Bank of England survey revealed that 80% of firms are ‘as ready as they can be’ for a no-deal Brexit

John ShuttleworthComment