By Jacob Millen-Bamford
This week Parliament was due to vote on one of the key Brexit Bill’s needed in case of a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit. The Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill was scheduled to go before the Commons on Monday 4th March for the final stages. However, the government pulled the Bill a few hours before it was due to be debated due to an amendment with cross-party support tabled by Conservative Andrew Mitchell MP. Had it passed this amendment aimed to provide greater transparency over tax havens but would have resulted in a government defeat. The Prime Minister is increasingly concerned about defeats and looking to avoid one pulled the Bill. The consequence is a key Brexit Bill is once again kicked down the road with no announcement of a future date for debate. As this crucial Bill is delayed time to March 29th keeps ticking.
In the House of Lords, the government was defeated on another crucial Brexit Bill- the Trade Bill.As a member of the EU we currently have access to 40 preferential trade agreements covering 71 countries. The UK has to roll over these deals regardless of if it agrees on a Brexit deal with the EU. The Trade Bill would roll these over. The government was defeated on two amendments. The first amendment 12 requires ‘Parliamentary Approval of trade agreements’ and the second amendment 13 ‘Customs Union’ requires the government to take all necessary steps to participate in a customs union with the European Union. This causes problems for the government when the Trade Bill returns for consideration of amendments. It opens an opportunity for MP’s to approve a customs union and the potential for a defeat over a crucial red line for the Prime Minister.
Talks this week between the UK and the EU continued to falter. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox MP has struggled to achieve the concessions on the backstop the government desires. Nothing has yet been agreed after these talks. This means the government is still in line for another heavy defeat on Tuesday 12th March with the second Meaningful Vote.
On a related note, there are concerns surrounding the government’s key legal advisor is sent as a negotiator and author of the important legal text that they will then advise the Cabinet on. Concerns of ‘marking his own homework’ have been raised but dismissed by Geoffrey Cox.
A common consensus for a common market?
On Wednesday this week, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met with a group of cross-party MPs to discuss their ‘common market 2.0’ proposals. This included Conservatives Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin with Labour Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock. This proposal has significant differences with Labour’s Brexit plan, however, if Corbyn decided to push some version of it there is a possibility of a majority in Parliament. Labour has previously written to the Prime Minister urging for a customs union with a close relationship to the Single Market. While the outcome of the talks as positive from both sides there doesn’t appear to be a joint outcome yet but watch this space for potential compromise to create a passable solution.
On 7th March Caroline Nokes MP made a Written Statement updating the House on the Settled Status. Key points include;
Response to the ‘Costa Amendment’ passed last week DExEU Secretary wrote to the EU about the possibility of a joint UK/EU commitment to preserving citizens’ rights in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. The government awaits a response.
Reconfirmed the removal of the application fee but only when the full process opens on 30th March 2019
Introduction of paper applications and digital applications using other devices than certain Android phones. Biggest improvement. There had been many issues simply getting access to the application for settled status. The government promises ‘at least 50’ identity verification locations for those with devices that won't scan forms of ID by 30th March 2019
You can read the full statement made here.
On Monday the government launched the ‘Stronger Towns Fund’ a £1.6 billion fund to ‘boost growth and give communities a greater say in their future’. Firstly, this is not the UK Shared Prosperity Fund under a different name. Media and Opposition MPs argued it was a bribe to win over MP’s representing Leave voting towns across the country to persuade them to vote for the Prime Ministers deal next week. Unfortunately for the government, who deny it is a bribe, the fund was attacked for being too little, too late, and over too long a time period as the money is due to be spread over seven years from 2025 - 2026. MPs argue the money falls drastically short to make up for the widespread council funding cuts. Meanwhile, concern was also expressed about whether this will replace the Shared Prosperity Fund, the government’s proposed replacement for EU funding that has attempted to reduce inequalities across the four UK nations. The Stronger Towns Fund falls short of the approximately €13 billion UK regions would be entitled to in the 2021-2027 period from the EU. It has done little to persuade potential Labour MP votes over to the government's side on the next Meaningful Vote.
Next week to watch
The Meaningful Vote returns to the Commons on Tuesday 12th. Despite multiple delays to the second Meaningful Vote for further UK/EU talks it continues to look like the government will have another heavy defeat on their hands. If the government is defeated the Prime Minister would then bring a vote on pursuing a ‘No Deal’ on Wednesday 13th giving the Commons the chance to rule it out. If a ‘No Deal’ is ruled out, then on Thursday 14th a vote to extend Article 50 will be held in the Commons. If the Prime Minister keeps to this plan it will be a series of votes to watch deciding the future of Brexit.
With the Geoffrey Cox talks stalling there have been rumours of the Meaningful Vote next week being pulled and delayed further, however, Number 10 has denied this.
Sky has discovered the government plans to make dramatic reductions to trade tariffs in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. The impact of such a move would have wide-ranging repercussions on industries. Read the reporthere
Amanda Ferguson freelance journalist based in Belfast published the full letter from David Sterling Northern Ireland’s chief civil servant he sent to Stormont’s political parties warning of the impact of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Find the letter on Twitter here
More recently an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Reuniting Britain post-Brexit has been established looking at new solutions to heal the divisions that Brexit has exposed across communities and age groups.
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Reuniting Britain post-Brexit | Chair: Stephen Kinnock MP | Secretariat: @MyLifeMySay | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you that may have missed it a reminder of the APPG on Post-Brexit Funding for Regions, Nations and Local Areas that was established in June 2018 is and their report is available here.