By Jacob Millen-Bamford 

Back in December, we said we’ve reached a point of Brexhaustion. Apparently, 83% of the public agrees.

It’s been another hectic week in Brexitland, Monday started with Round Two of the indicative votes with no majority found for a way forward. Cabinet met for over 7 hours on Tuesday, resulting in Theresa May proposing talks with Corbyn to ‘break the logjam’. Wednesday, saw the Commons fast-track through a Bill brought to Parliament by Yvette Cooper MP. The Bill was voted through in one day passing with a majority of one. This bill would force the Prime Minister to ask for an extension to Article 50 beyond 12 April and give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay (see handy graphic from the Commons Library here). Yesterday, the House Lords spent 12 hours on the Cooper Bill while the Commons chamber were literally falling apart. And now this morning, Theresa May asked for a short extension to Article 50, aiming to ratify- if not theBrexit deal- a Brexit deal before June 30. The EU will likely reject a short extension at next week’s summit with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council looking to offer a longer extension, up to April 2020. Tusk’s plan could see the UK leaving before April 2020, provided Parliament ratifies a deal. If the sound of that week doesn’t make you Brexhausted, I don’t know what does.

Amid all this, the Prime Minister invited Jeremy Corbyn MP to attend talks to find a way through the Brexit process. This invitation led to a furious reaction from Eurosceptic Conservatives and the subsequent resignation of two Ministers. On the Labour front bench, Emily Thornberry MP called for Corbyn to demand a public confirmatory vote on whatever the eventual deal is. They held talks on Wednesday and Thursday and while no major breakthrough has appeared, further talks today suggest they may reach an agreement. Politically it is still difficult for a deal to gain a large majority. Labour is keen to lay any blame at Conservatives feet while any cross-party deal will lead to a softerBrexit upsetting hardliners on the Conservative benches. Interestingly, May and Corbyn did look at the idea of a future prime minister being required to secure the consent of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before they can alter the UK’s future relationship with the EU

The BBC has created a useful breakdown of the vote results on the indicative votes here and one on the Cooper bill here

Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government Committee Report – Brexit and Local Government

This week the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published their report into Brexit and local government. The report sets out five priorities and five key policy recommendations. 

Crucially they stress the importance of the need to establish the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The report emphasises the potential loss of funding and the lack of clarity and progress by the Government in establishing the fund. The Committee highlights the serious risk to local economies and local government the loss of EU structural funding creates and demands the government urgently pushes forward its plans for establishing the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Further policy action recommendations are for the government to make clear its plans for further devolution of powers to local authorities post-Brexit and to clarify how the government will involve local government in future domestic policy post-Brexit. The Committee urges for a formal process for localgovernment consultation on legislation.

"We believe that the period during and after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU presents local authorities with substantial risks, as well as opportunities, and it is therefore imperative that councils are provided with adequate support fromcentral government in terms of funding and guidance to address new burdens and responsibilities as they emerge. In the short term, the extension to Article 50 provides a further opportunity for the Government to ensure that all necessary measures are in place in order for local government to be fully prepared for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU"

You can find the full report here.

Human Rights Consortium Scotland and SCVO: ‘grave concerns about rights after Brexit’ 

The Human Rights Consortium Scotland and SCVO have highlighted their profound concern about the protection of rights after Brexit.

Writing to the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee, we have highlighted that this concern is shared by over 170 organisations who support the Scotland Declaration on Human Rights. Choosing not to retain the Charter of Fundamental Rights was very regrettable and a step backwards.  We want to see human rights protections strengthened, not undermined. We welcome plans to incorporate UN treaty rights into Scots law, including the UNCRC.

Further, we remain concerned that some of the impact on rights after Brexit is as yet unknown and is to be found in the detail of secondary legislation, UK common frameworks and trade deals.  It is essential that there is transparency and participation of civil society so that human rights are protected in all of these decisions.

You can read their submission here: HRCS and SCVO submission: Rights after Brexit

Speaking of rights after Brexit, this week Liberty wrote to Jeremy Corbyn asking them to fight for rights protection post-Brexit ahead of their meeting with Theresa May.

Irish citizens rights after Brexit 

Northern Ireland campaigners are concerned over the treatment of Northern Irish citizens’ rights by the UK government. The UK government does not allow citizens in Northern Ireland access to the ‘settled status’ scheme as it considers them as dual British nationals. This was revealed in the De Souza court case as the Home Office defaults to dual British citizenship for people born in Northern Ireland, despite what they may define as part of their rights under the Good Friday Agreement. This raises questions over a persons EEA/EU citizenship and the potential future relationship between rights given through ‘settled status’ and the Good Friday Agreement. 

It has been covered by the Irish Times in an article worth reading here.

New Frontiers: The Social Sector through Brexit

Friday 26th April, 9:30 to 16:30
The Human Rights Action Centre
17 – 25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA

The Brexit Civil Society Alliance, New Philanthropy Capital and Lloyds Bank Foundation are hosting an all-day conference, bringing together the social sector the potentially momentous changes Brexit will have on charities, voluntary organisations and the communities they champion and represent 

Brexit presents serious challenges for the UK social sector. Three years of unanswered questions and ongoing uncertainty for charities and voluntary organisations is as big an issue as it is for businesses but neither have received the debate and attention they rightly deserve. 

We believe there is an urgent need for the social sector to discuss the momentous changes that Brexit will bring, provide a public platform to raise concerns and begin to develop a greater sense of collective understanding of, and responsibility for, the challenges ahead. 

Key questions we will address is:
What should the role and mission of the social and wider voluntary sector be through (and beyond) Brexit? What might existing trends tell us about potential new directions in activity and need? How do we gear up to actively shape the agenda not just observe? Are we prepared for the possibly momentous change that is coming our way—and the constitutional challenges ahead?

  • Tony Armstrong, Locality

  • John Downie, SCVO

  • Belinda Pratten, Equally Ours

  • Kirsty McHugh, Mayors Fund for London

  • Debbie Pippard, Barrow Cadbury

  • Phil Fiander, WCVA

Register your attendance here

Recommended Reading and Events

  • Civil Society and No-Deal planning - The Civil Society Involvement organisation have laid out three key areas (economic shock, human impact, funding streams) for civil society organisations to consider in the event of a No-Deal and raised them with Julia Sweeney, Head of European Programmes. Read their full blog here.

  • Public Law Project Wales Conference – Thursday 25 April, 10:00 to 17:10, Cardiff University Glamorgan Building. With a range of workshops andtalks this day will focus on Brexit, access to justice, legal aid, migration and settled status, online courts, and strategic legal work. Tickets and full details here

  • The Welsh NHS Confederation has have produced frequently asked questions document for health and social care sector as we move towards leaving the EU. Find it here.