Over the Line or Vanishing Point?

For the first time in what feels like ages, Theresa May’s many attempts to secure a Brexit deal has not been on the top of the news agenda. Instead, the focus has been on the Labour and Conservatives MPs who’s defected from their own parties and joined ‘the Independent Group’.  It’s unclear what this will mean for May’s prospect of getting her deal through as things are changing daily. But, as supporters of a ‘People’s Vote’, none of the now independent MPs are likely to back any Brexit deal, unless that is a second referendum is put a condition of it passing.

Gavin Shucker MP  a member of the Independent Group has suggested that if  Theresa May backs Kyle/Wilson amendments (giving support to  May’s deal if it is put a put to a public vote with Remain on the ballot paper) then the Independent Group (TIG) would support the deal.  According to the Huffington Post in return for a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper, The Independent Group (TIG) would support the deal and then prop up May’s government by backing her in no-confidence votes and on budgets.

According to the Telegraph a group of 100 Tory MPs have warned Theresa May they will rebel against the government next week to force her to delay Brexit if she cannot reach a deal. In a letter sent to the Chief Whip the MPs say growing "unease" is pushing them to back Oliver Letwin's amendment. They’re saying that "members of our group have alerted us to their intention (should rejection of the deal look likely) to get behind amendments that are planned in the name of Oliver Letwin [..] which will have the twin effect of taking no deal off the table and delaying Brexit."

No immediate sense of a breakthrough 

On Wednesday this week, Theresa May met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker. They agreed to keep working on a solution to make the Irish backstop more acceptable to the UK. They will review the progress again in the “coming days”. The joint statement after the discussion concentrated on three areas; 1)assurances the EU can make around the backstop, 2) alternatives that can be looked at to the backstop 3) how the political declaration can be beefed up. The meeting between Geoffrey Cox and Stephen Barclay and Michel Barnier yesterday did not signal immediate breakthrough though, with talks being ‘part of an ongoing process’ and that ‘further meetings will be held next week’.

The EU is also floating the idea of getting MPs to vote on the proposed changes to the backstop before the bloc goes the trouble of gathering all its leaders together for yet another Brexit summit. They want to avoid the mistake of getting all the leaders together, offer concessions only for them to be rejected by the UK Parliament. So the plan that is being floated is having a non-binding vote on the changes to the backstop, EU signs it off at next month summit and then it goes back to Parliament for final ratification. Right now, it is just an idea, but it would fit both sides strategy to push it the last minute in an effort to pressure MPs to back the deal. Discussions between the two sides also suggest the prime minister will ask for an extension if Parliament backs the Brexit deal but EU leaders don’t sign it off until an EU summit on March 21-22.

Andrea Leadsom’s Business Statement this week where she said a ‘second meaningful vote’ will be held “once we achieve the progress we need”. The Government will make a statement on Tuesday 26 February and table an amendable motion relating to the statement, and a Minister will move that motion on Wednesday 27 February. But judging by how the negotiationshave gone the last few days, it may not be enough progress to report to the Commons as the vote takes place on 27 February.

Amendment on guaranteeing citizens’ rights in the event of no deal 

Tory MP Alberto Costa has put down an amendment, designed to be attached to May’s motion next week. It sets out the following: 

“This House considers the prime minister's statement of 26th February and requires the prime Minister to seek at the earliest opportunity a joint UK-EU commitment to adopt part two of the withdrawal agreement on citizens rights and ensure its implementation prior to the UK’s exiting the European Union, whatever the outcome of negotiations on other aspects of the withdrawal agreement."

It’s getting support from across the Conservative Party and Ian Dunt has got a useful analysis here.

No scrutiny of future trade deals? 

The Commons had a general debate on trade deals with post-Brexit trade agreements with the US, Australia, New Zealand and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The lack of scrutiny, impact assessments, consultation results fornegotiating 4 trade deals before what may be Parliament’s only chance to debate these agreements is shocking indeed. Recommend reading David Henig thread on this here. Also, read a letter from a number of organisations here. Finally, read Hansard Society’s blog ‘Commons' new trade agreement debate is a start, but far from ideal’.  

UK will apply food tariffs in case of a no deal, according to Michael Gove

Speaking at NUF conference this week, Michael Gove said that UK will apply tariffs to food imports to protect British farmers in a no-deal scenario. He also said that food standards will not be lowered “in pursuit of trade deals”. But as Tom Bradshaw, cereal farmer told Channel 4 news- “what we need to see is it written in black and white, we need to see it in the Agriculture Bill or the Trade Bill. Until we seem them in neither of those documents we are not going to believe that he [Michael Gove] is going to deliver on the import standards match our internal UK standards’

Why The Government Needs To Publish The Withdrawal Agreement Bill In Draft Now

If, and its a massively big if, Parliament does agree to the Brexit deal the government will have to introduce primary legislation to give effect to it in domestic law. The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill will contain provisions that are likely to be highly contentious politically and constitutionally. Our latest blog look at what the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is likely to contain and why it is crucial that Parliament and civil society sees its provisions as soon as possible.

York Roundtable: Brexit & Civil Society 

The Brexit Civil Society Alliance is hosting a roundtable discussion on what Brexit means for the third sector in York on the 25th February, 13.00-16.00. The event will bring civil society and relevant stakeholders together to network and share information and discuss what happens next and how York third sector can best prepare for exit day. It will also be an opportunity to express thoughts and concerns about Brexit's impact on civil society.

Mike Hawking from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will be talking about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Kate Young (ChemTrust) will discuss how Brexit will impact on chemicals and environmental policy. There will also be an update from the Department of Exiting the EU Engagement team. 

Register here and do share far & wide!

Recommended reading & watching: 


  • NFU president, Minette Batters makes a powerful speech on the importance of maintaining food standards post-Brexit saying that “this is not about warm words, we will be judged on what we deliver” here


  • Open Rights Group & ILPA’s here.2 page briefing on the issues with automated data checks within the settled status scheme

  • Scottish Parliament: Immigration Policy- the Countdown to Brexit here

  • Children in Scotland & Together: Listen to us- A report on Brexit by the Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe here.

  • UK in a Changing Europe- Brexit and the backstop: everything you need to know here

  • Hansard Society reflect that it is over 40 years since the UK last made a trade agreement of its own, during which time the nature of such agreements has changed hugely, and the UK devolved administrations have been created here

Equality and Diversity Forum is hiring! 

Deadline: 26 February 2019.
EDF is recruiting an intern which will focus on advancing the rule of law on equality and human rights after Brexit and support the Race Equality Funders Network to improve the practice of funders and increase investment in race equality. Spread the word- more information here.