MPs Return to Parliament: What To Expect in the Coming Months
MPs will be returning to the House of Commons after a long break and returning to the most intense period to date with the Brexit negotiations.
And whilst there has been much attention paid to a People’s Vote, the reality is that it will be up to politicians - and specifically what happens in the House of Commons between now and next February that will determine everything Brexit.
Similar media attention has been given to the possibility of a General Election but the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA) makes a general election less likely before exit day. ( There are only three ways to trigger this - if the Commons votes by a two-thirds majority for one; if a motion is passed with the specific wording set out in the FTPA; or, less likely, if the FTPA is overturned).
The Brexit Civil Society Alliance, formerly the repeal Bill Alliance has been busy over the summer revamping its website, meeting with new partners and working with the devolved nations to extend reach and influence. You can read our latest briefing here. We expect the next 3 months to be the most crucial to date and will ensure that civil society voices are heard in the process.
The Alliance will be relaunching with its brand new website on the afternoon of 22nd October. A Round Table for those from the devolved nations and regions will ALSO take place on the same day. Please note that we have limited spaces, if your organisation would like to be present at either or both please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details & RSVP. Note this is for civil society organisations, trade unions and other advocacy and representational bodies.
The Alliance at the Conservative Party Conference
Thanks to everyone who came to our fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference this week. Our brilliant panel discussed what threats and opportunities civil society face as a result of Brexit and what it will mean for fundamental rights, the environment and our statute book. Undoubtely, uncertainty about what lies ahead looms- as Alison Pickup, legal director at the Public Law Project said: "civil society need legal certainty as much as business so that people know how to use to law & know their rights".
EU Citizens Rights
There were a few take homes following the Conservative party conference. The home secretary used his speech to say people seeking British citizenship would face tougher English-language requirements, part of an immigration overhaul that will include the end of free movement from the EU.
The proposals for a single immigration system that treats people from EU countries the same as those from non-EU countries was the thing that captured most media attention. Highly skilled workers who want to live and work in Britain would be given priority, while low-skilled immigration would be curbed
After the Salzburg summit, Theresa May reached out to EU citizens living in the UK with a unilateral promise: “Even in the event of no deal, your rights will be protected… we want you to stay.”
Surely this is enough to reassure people that their future is secure, even in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit in 2019? Well, not quite says the 3million as a unilateral UK guarantee for EU citizens does nothing to protect British citizens in the EU27 countries. Mutual agreement is also needed to acknowledge qualifications and pension entitlements from several EU countries, for people who have lived their lives relying on freedom of movement.
Secretary of State Dominic Raab has also refused to confirm in an LBC interview that the criteria for EU citizens to apply for a new “settled status” under UK immigration law would stay the same (39mins in) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvr5JIv691M&app=desktop
Citizens’ rights groups the3million and British in Europe are campaigning with UNISON for the UK and EU to honour the political promises made to this group of 5 million citizens at the start of the negotiations, and commit now to implementing the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement under Article 50 - no matter what the outcome on Brexit.
MPs and Peers are encouraged to show their support for the #thelastmile campaign by attending an event in Parliament on 5 November, for EU citizens and Brits abroad to meet with their MP. More information is available here and registration for the event here.
The Next Few Weeks
Talks have been all but deadlocked since March, and there are now less than six months until the U.K. leaves the bloc. Diplomats in Brussels said they expect the contours of the exit agreement to emerge by the middle of next week. Two key issues still need to be fixed: the overall shape of the future trade arrangements between Britain and Europe, and the so-called backstop guarantee to avoid a hard border with Ireland.
Thursday October 4th saw Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels and then next Tuesday Barnier is scheduled to meet Arlene Foster.
On October 10th ambassadors from the 27 EU countries expect to be able to make concrete plans for this month’s critical EU summit on Oct. 18. See Bloomberg for a full analysis of the next few critical days.
There is much speculation. Will the EU compromise and allow the whole of the U.K. including Northern Ireland to stay in the bloc’s customs regime as part of the temporary backstop? And what
Distinction will be made between customs checks and regulatory checks? Some in Cabinet already think keeping the EU’s common tariff could be the only way to get a future trade deal, but other pro-Brexit parliamentarians will find that impossible to accept.
The Process Of Leaving
With six months to go, it is still not obvious that the UK and EU will agree on a withdrawal agreement that will allow Brexit to happen in an orderly fashion. What lies ahead is a complex and unpredictable parliamentary process. A new and exhaustive report from The UK in a Changing Europe examine the nooks and crannies of parliamentary procedure to give an insight into how this process might work.
This is a must read and a reminder that the final Brexit deal will consist of two separate but connected agreements. The House of Commons will be asked by the government to approve both as a package. At the end ofdebate in the Commons, MPs will be asked to vote on whether to accept the government’s deal. The vote will not simply be a choice between accepting the deal or rejecting it, even though the government might paint it as such to increase pressure on MPs. Members of parliament can amend the motion accepting the deal to add conditions to it.
MPs will be able to propose amendments to this Bill. Votes on these amendments could enable MPs to influence the Brexit process. Line-by-line scrutiny of the Northern Ireland and Ireland Protocol in the Commons, in the form it is implemented by EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, could create a potential flashpoint. It could also enable parliamentarians to extract legally binding concessions from the government.
The fact that parliament will have to approve the Withdrawal Agreement (through the resolution) prior to EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill being introduced will create tensions and add touncertainty. Plus the European Parliament will not consider the deal until it has passed through the UK Parliament (UK ratification will not be complete until the Bill turning the Withdrawal Agreement into UK law has been passed). MPs in the UK could still try to influence the content of the agreement even after they have passed a motion supporting it.
Regional and Sectoral Impacts Of Brexit
Recent research from the University of Birmingham has been examining the economic impacts of Brexit on the UK, its regions cities and sectorally. The findings, not surprisingly, are that the regions most heavily dependent on trade with the EU will be those most affected post Brexit. It considers all the UK-EU global value-chains in which goods and services cross borders numerous times as well as those trade linkages connected via third countries.
There are implications for migrant labour in what some refer to as a low skilled workforce and some businesses may have to change business models or look for new labour pools. Different places will also have a very different capacity to cope with not surprisingly towns and rural economies least able to cope with Brexit aftershocks.