Light at the end of the tunnel?



Parliament has been on recess for most of this week but that does mean that things have been quiet. The past week has seen indications that we are inching closer towards a deal that would possibly see a UK-wide backstop. This would guarantee in the absence of an agreement on the future relationship that it is not just Northern Ireland but the whole of the UK that remains in customs and regulatory alignment with the EU.

The UK wants that backstop to be temporary, the EU has indicated they may accept this albeit with some conditions- i.e. it can’t include an end-date or any unilateral exit mechanism, but possibly a review clause. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who spoke on the backstop at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, and Brexit secretary Dominic Raab will work up further details of the UK’s proposal before presenting it again to ministers to, possibly early next week. Also, for a recap/ clarification on all things Irish border, listen to the latest podcast episode of BBC's Brexitcast

Ireland has been playing down the idea that a deal is within close reach. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday that more work is needed and it’s now time for the UK to make decisions. Pressure is mounting from the DUP, Labour and the Lib Dems that the government publish details of legal advice about a possible Brexit deal, following calls from cabinet ministers to see the full document.  While this week has seen political momentum gathering for reaching a deal, like any other week in Brexit land, there is much speculation, conflicting noise and few actual guarantees that a deal will be put to Parliament in the near future. Peter Foster’s thread on the issue provides a good overview. 

Then there is, of course, the challenge of getting the deal through Parliament, where there’s is no majority for any sort of deal. Currently, there is much discussion on whether MPs will be able to lay amendments before they vote on the main motion- the Government has suggested the opposite- main motion on the deal first, then MPs can vote on amendments after if they reject the main motion. The Procedure Committee’s inquiry into procedures around the meaningful vote is still ongoing and much recommend is reading the evidence of Hansard SocietyPublic Law Project and Bingham Centre Rule of Law and the UK in a Changing Europe and then there is the illuminating evidence from Hilary Benn, chair of the EU Select Committee. 

There are many possible scenarios that could materialise- we’ve outlined them in our latest blog ‘The agreement becomes the disagreement: scanning the Brexit Horizon’. 

Government’s Brexit environmental plans fail to replace one-third of EU laws, warns Commons Environmental Audit Committee 

The UK could be left with gaping holes in environmental laws allowing polluters to go unpunished and depriving wildlife of vital protection after Brexit, warns the Environmental Audit Committee in the House of Commons. Following areport from the Committee, the Government’s response shows that there is no confirmation that the new environmental watchdog will hold all public bodies to account, whether climate change will be in its remit or how it will exact enforcement. Nor the Government’s response commit to replacing the one-third of EU environmental legislation (air, waste, water, chemicals) that cannot be copied and pasted into UK law through the EU (Withdrawal) Act. It also makes clear that no devolved administration has agreed to the proposal of a UK wide body to replace the role of the European Commision and European Environment Agency. 

And speaking of Select Committees, we have made a guide to most of the relevant select committees in both houses, their role and what Brexit-related inquiries they are doing which will be updated on a weekly basis. As Brexit continues to suck the oxygen out of our politics the on-going action is the Select Committees ( take for example the EU Select Committee pressuring David Davis to publish impact assessments or the Home Affairs Committee revealing how little prepared the Home Office is for a no deal Brexit). Select committees are worth keeping an eye on and members in the Alliance may well want to submit evidence to relevant inquiries. 

Hansard Society’s Brexit Statutory Instrument Dashboard 

Most of you have probably seen this already but in case you have missed it- the Hansard Society have made a very useful dashboard which tracks the progress made by the government and Parliament in preparing the statute book for exit day. It’s updated on a regular basis and this week shows that 48% of the time available to lay the statutory instruments (SIs) before exit day has now elapsed, but just 15% of the minimum number of SIs the government are needed for Brexit have been laid before Parliament. So the government is way behind schedule when it comes to delivering on the promise of a functioning statute book after exit day. The dashboard also shows that:  

  • 118 Brexit related SIs have been laid since the EU (Withdrawal) Act received Royal Assent on 26 June 2018. Of these: 

  • 85 have been laid using powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 

  • 13 have been laid using powers in other Acts of Parliament 

  • 44 of the 118 Brexit SIs laid before Parliament make amendments to Acts of Parliament. 

Recommended reading: 

Consent forms for our internal directory

Apologies for banging on about this, but for those who have not completed the consent forms to be part of the internal directory we are creating, please do so here. The internal directory of contacts will be available to members so that you can connect with others working on the same issues. It will only be available to members of the Alliance and your details will not be shared on any public platforms. 

Join us in Penrith for a Brexit roundtable with civil society

In partnership with Cumbria Youth Alliance and ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, the Brexit Civil Society Alliance is hosting a roundtable discussion on what Brexit means for the third sector in Penrith,Cumbrua on the 30th November, 14.00-17.00.  Our goal is to bring civil society and relevant stakeholders together to network and share information- the roundtable discussion will also be an opportunity to express thoughts and concerns about Brexit's impact on your organisation.  More info and registration here


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