Negotiations Continue – Within The Cabinet
Guest editor: Victor Anderson
White Paper due next week - The Cabinet meets next Friday (July 6) to discuss the Government’s White Paper on its aims for future relations between the UK and EU. Publication is scheduled for Monday (July 9).
This could be the moment when Theresa May confronts her hardline Brexit colleagues in Cabinet. Time is ticking and the UK needs to clarify its objectives for its negotiations with the EU27. The meeting is for the full Cabinet rather than its Brexit committee, which tilts the balance towards a “softer” version of Brexit. The meeting is only one day rather than the two days originally planned, and there is precious little time to change the 150ish-page text from the end of Friday to its planned publication on Monday.
If publication gets delayed, we will know May is having trouble with her Cabinet and some rewriting has been needed. Another possibility is that it will go ahead on Monday but with one or more resignations. Currently the most likely outcome is looking like publication on Monday with everyone still on board, but at the cost of continuing ambiguities in the UK position. And while we await more clarity on the Government’s position, the Alliance will publish it’s very own Brexit White Paper next week, setting out the principles the Repeal Bill Alliance started with, then look at some of the issues which face civil society organisations now. Stay tuned.
December summit deal would leave only three and a half months until exit
Brexit did not loom large in the EU heads of government meeting this week (July 28/29). The focus was on migration and the newly assertive “populist” Italian Government. The Commission statement afterwards on Brexit stressed "important aspects still need to be agreed", mentioning the Irish border and Gibraltar.
Hopes are fading that there will be a breakthrough at the next summit, in October, which could push the negotiations into the summit after next, in December (Dec 13/14 in Austria). That would leave only three and a half months to “exit day” on March 29 2019, creating problems for the European Union, the UK, and other parliaments in scrutinising (and possibly rejecting) the deal.
It would also keep open the possibility of there being no deal, leading to contingency plans being stepped up, and the likelihood that EU funding for projects in the UK, currently expected to continue during the 2019/20 transition period, suddenly stopping. This would have a big impact on many civil society organisations.
Latest EU Commission's statement on Brexit available here.
The Repeal Bill Alliance latest paper ‘Scanning the Brexit Horizon: what to expect in the next nine months’ is available here.
“Meaningful vote” argument continues
The EU Withdrawal Bill received Royal Assent on Tuesday (June 26). Full final text available here.
Parliamentary proceedings ended with a lack of clarity about whether Parliament will have a “meaningful” vote on the outcome of UK/EU negotiations. It is possible there will merely be a Government motion to “take note” and that it will be unamendable, making it impossible for Parliament to express an opinion (except possibly by perversely saying that it is not taking note).
In a new report this week, the Commons Brexit Select Committee, chaired by Hilary Benn, has affirmed very clearly the view that the Government's motion on a withdrawal agreement (or lack of one) must be amendable, and argued that Parliament should be able to send the Government back into further negotiations if the initial deal is not accepted.
There are still no dates fixed for the long-awaited Commons Report Stage of the Trade Bill and Customs Bill.
Brexit & Civil Society in Cornwall
Together with the Equality and Diversity Forum, the Alliance headed down to Cornwall to discuss the impacts of Brexit on Cornish civil society this week. Unsurprisingly, there are many concerns and uncertainty about what lies ahead in terms of EU Funding, healing the divisions highlighted by the referendum and how Cornwall can best prepare for exit day. As Brexit Future Policy Officer at the Cornwall Council, Ginnie Odetayo, said, the process of the leaving the EU cannot be a “London-centric policy change” - voices in regions across the UK must be heard and their concerns must be addressed.
Ian Smith, CEO of Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum (CVSF) spoke about the high level of economic inequality in Cornwall and how disadvantaged groups and areas do not always benefit from economic growth. Ian Smith also explained that many people do not feel like EU Funding has adequately addressed the needs of the local community, it has often provided short-term solutions to long-term issues. The Shared Prosperity Fund - which the Government has promised will replace the current EU Funding that deprived communities receive - must adopt an approach that takes into account what actually matters to the communities in Cornwall and addresses their needs. While there’s a lot of concerns about the impacts of the referendum and the number of challenges facing Cornwall, attendees also emphasised the many great people in Cornwall who work tirelessly in their local communities, doing great work to improve social cohesion and address issues.
The Alliance will continue to work with civil society in Cornwall. Below are some handy resources that set out concerns, thoughts and recommendations for Cornwall post-Brexit:
CVSF and Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Really Shared Prosperity for One and All: A Report on Inclusive Growth challenges and opportunities in Cornwall
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board: New Frontiers- An inclusive approach to an economy, environment and society that works for everyone in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
And don’t forget that you can sign up to our Brexit & Civil Society roundtable in Newcastle - taking place on the 12th July, 13.30-17.00 here. It’s free AND even better - it’s a great opportunity to meet other organisations and share thoughts, concerns, knowledge of what Brexit will mean for civil society in Newcastle.