Technology Can't Solve Everything



Good morning,

Welcome to the Brexit Breakup by BCSA. We have a new look and a new format for our weekly E:Bulletin. We cover In Politics, In Policy and In Events breaking up what has happened in Brexit this week with a civil society angle. I hope you enjoy and find the new style bulletin useful!

A dozen have become two. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the two Conservative leadership candidates to go the membership. At the EU summit, the Irish Prime Minister has reinforced that the EU will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement or the backstop. The Lords EU Select Committee heard from David Lidington, and the European Commission has performed a Mapping Exercise of key areas of concern on the Irish border. As usual some events for your diary, and recommended reading for your weekend.

Jacob Millen-Bamford

Got 1 minute? Read the bullets
Got 10 minutes? Read the analysis
Got 60 minutes? Read the Recommended Reading

In Politics

And then there were two

  • Boris Johnson V Jeremy Hunt - the final two now go to the membership ballot

  • No Deal and no detail on plans continue to dominate the leadership contest

  • Parliament in recess 25th July to 3rd September

The Conservative Party reduced its leadership contest to two candidates who now face Conservative members. Dominic Raab, Rory Stewart, and Sajid Javid were all eliminated this week. Stewart succeeded in getting enough votes to proceed to the debate on BBC One but disappointed those hoping for a performance that would change the race, and was knocked out the next day.

The race is now on between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. Hunt beat competitor Michael Gove by 2 votes.

Johnson has the hardest line on Brexit. He hasn’t ruled out a No Deal and continues to argue that the UK must leave the EU on October 31st. However, as reported by Bloomberg (here) Johnson seems to be telling different things to different MPs. This along with his avoidance of media scrutiny means we have little idea of his specific Brexit plan.

Most of the candidates, including Johnson, have been reluctant to lay out any detailed plans. We are still no clearer on several issues on how they would; keep the Irish border open, replace the backstop, re-negotiate a deal with the EU, or get it passed in Parliament.

During the BBC debate candidates repeatedly stated they would use technology to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It bears repeating that technology cannot solve the problem of avoiding a hard border. There will still have to be checks and controls on goods moving between the two countries and you cannot ignore the historical, political and geographical significance of the Irish border. Any leadership candidate should have Katy Hayward’s (Queen University Belfast) piece on the issues with using technology to solve the border question on their reading list. This fact-check may also help inform the new PM.

The Commons will go to summer recess on the 25th July and return on the 3rd September. We should see the new PM in the Commons before recess. They are scheduled to be announced on the 22nd July.

Warnings from Dublin

  • “Enormous hostility” to further Article 50 extension for the UK

  • EU will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement or backstop

  • Preventing a hard border remains the highest priority for Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, has warned of ‘enormous hostility’ among EU leaders towards a further extension to Article 50. This was during this week's EU summit. There is reporting that EU leaders have lost patience with the UK. Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has publicly expressed his unhappiness with the UK continuing to get extensions.

Varadkar also reconfirmed what we already know. The EU will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May’s Brexit deal, that has been rejected three times by the Commons. This is problematic for the Conservative leadership front runner Johnson as he has promised to remove the ‘backstop’, a central plank of his appeal to hard-line Brexiteer Conservatives. Varadkar explicitly ruled out Johnson's approach “There’s no withdrawal agreement without a backstop, and there is no implementation period without a withdrawal agreement”.

Domestically Varadkar is making preparations for a No Deal Brexit. The government in Dublin is preparing two budgets to be announced in October this year. One budget to account for a No Deal Brexit and one budget for a Brexit scenario that does not leave an economic shock on Ireland’s economy.

Varadkar is prioritising preventing a hard border over potential damage to the Irish economy. Varadkar faces an election and not producing a pre-election budget giveaway emphasises the importance of the border for Dublin.

In Policy

European Commission Irish border Mapping Exercise

  • The European Commission’s Mapping Exercise report on north-south cooperation to be published shortly

  • Reveals a wide range of areas that likely can’t be solved by technology

  • Demonstrates the wide complexity of the border in Northern Ireland and what the new PM will have to tackle

European Commission Mapping Exercise on north-south cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland. RTE’s Europe Editor, Tony Connelly reportsthat the European Commission has sent round a document containing a Mapping Exercise of all the areas of north-south cooperation that will potentially be disrupted by Brexit. The document demonstrates how both the EU and the UK handled the issue of north-south cooperation and the role it played during the development of the Irish ‘backstop’ during the negotiations.

These are currently protected by the Good Friday Agreement and membership of the EU. The UK government has committed to ‘protecting North-South cooperation’ and that ‘any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements’. This is in the December 2017 Joint Report and the Withdrawal Agreement.

The areas highlighted by the Mapping Exercise demonstrate the wide-ranging and complex issues that are regularly dealt with in north-south cooperation which rely on an open, frictionless border. The document highlights the scale of North-South Cooperation- it is not simply about goods and tariffs but about people travelling across the border, border communities, it’s about cross-border cooperation in education, agriculture, the environment and many other areas. The report rightly sets out that “virtually all areas of north-south cooperation are predicated on the avoidance of a hard border”.

This will be a sobering read for whoever is the new Prime Minister. The Mapping Exercise has formed the basis of the ‘backstop’, which is a major sticking point for the DUP and hardline Conservative Brexiteers. It will, therefore, be a challenge for any PM who relies on their support, just as Theresa May did. Questions and detailed plans will need to be produced by the government on how they intend to deal with the issues.

House of Lords EU Select Committee

  • Lessons to be learnt from the Brexit negotiations include better engagement of Parliament

  • DExEU will be the lead department on the future relationship negotiations

This week the House of Lords EU Select Committee heard evidence from David Lidington MP, Teresa May’s de facto deputy. When questioned by the Lords, Lidington stated that under current plans phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations, the future relationship, will be lead by the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).

This is different from its current role where the department plays less of a lead and more of a coordination role between other departments. This is particularly the case on No Deal planning where individual departments have headed up their own planning for a No Deal Brexit.

Lidington reflected on the previous stages of negotiations and touched on the need for greater involvement for Parliament in any future negotiations. The lack of engagement by the government of MPs has produced multiple points of conflict between the Commons and the government. Meanwhile, MP’s are not the only sector ignored. Civil society has frequently been sidelined and we have previously called for greater engagement from the government, which you can read here.

This lays out some key challenges for DExEU and the new PM in the next stage of the negotiations. Will they heed the words from Lidington and involve Parliament more, especially considering the continually difficult arithmetic, or will they attempt to push their policy through without involving any sectors or MPs?

Watch the full evidence session here and an excellent Twitter thread by Brigid Fowler from Hansard Society here.

In Events

Sheffield Roundtable

We have nearly sold out so last chance for tickets to our roundtable in Sheffield.

This roundtable is on Tuesday 25th June, 13:30 to 16:30 at the Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX

It is evident that Brexit will have significant impacts on civil society from questions around the replacement of EU funding that the third sector receives, to the maintenance of fundamental rights, to key legislative changes that will arise as a result of EU withdrawal.

Joining us in Sheffield are:

  • Shahida Siddique (FaithStar) who will speak on the impact of Brexit on cohesion and Sheffield’s civil society

  • John Tizard (NAVCA) who will speak on the wider impact of Brexit on civil society

  • Lauren Payne (Equality and Human Rights Commission) who will speak about the future of funding for civil society and EHRC’s recent report on the future of funding (which you can find here)

Space is limited. Get your place at the table here.

UK Shared Prosperity Fund - Westminster Hall debate

A Westminster Hall debate, led by Paul Blomfield MP, on the topic of replacement of EU structural funds for least developed regions will take place Wednesday 26th June, 14:30 to 16:00.

As a member of the public, you can attend and sit in watching Westminster Hall debates. You can also watch on

The last debate on this was led by Dan Jarvis MP and we published these briefing papers for MP’s on the issue. The House of Commons Library provides a briefing paper here.

Recommended Reading

  • IPPR has 10 questions that need answering on a No Deal Brexit. Read the questions here

  • The Institute for Government has published “Becoming Prime Minister” a report on the insight of how a new Prime Minister must settle into the role. Read it here.