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This week in Brexit: 14 – 20 January

Posted by Lotty Reeves on 23rd January 2019

Monday 14 January 2019

  • The prime minister Theresa May will make a last ditch attempt to persuade MP’s to back her withdrawal agreement ahead of the meaningful tomorrow. Mrs May will warn Brexiteer MP’s that should her deal be voted down by MP’s, then Parliament would be more likely to block Brexit rather than allow the UK to leave without a deal. Mrs May will also warn that politics will suffer “catastrophic harm” if the referendum result was not implemented.
  • Critics have accused the prime minister of hypocrisy after citing the example of the Welsh devolution as to why the Brexit referendum result should be respected. Mrs May will argue that both sides had respected the result of the referendum on creation of the Welsh Assembly, after a referendum showed a 0.3% majority in favour of devolution. However, records show the prime minister voted against the establishment of the Welsh Assembly in Parliament and that the 2005 Conservative Party manifesto pledged to offer the Welsh people a second referendum on whether to keep the Assembly, increase its powers or abolish it completely.
  • Boris Johnson has admitted that, in retrospect, he should have stood for the leadership of Conservative Party in 2016, even after Michael Gove decided against supporting Mr Johnson’s bid for leader and entered the race himself.
  • Downing Street released letters between the prime minister and the presidents of the European Council and Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker, giving further assurances and clarifications from the EU over the controversial Northern Ireland backstop. In the exchanges, Mr Tusk and Mr Junker confirmed that Brussels did not wish to the see the backstop implemented. However, Mr Tusk and Mr Junker reiterated that they were not in a position to agree anything which changed or was inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement. 
  • Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has said it is unlikely that the prime minister’s Brexit deal will be approved by MP’s.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warned that a no-deal Brexit would hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. 
  • Tory whip Gareth Johnson became the 13th person to resign from the government over Brexit. In his resignation letter to the prime minister Mr Johnson stated he was unable to back the government’s Brexit deal because it “prevented [the UK from] taking back control and instead could leave [the UK] perpetually constrained by the European Union”.
  • The Department of Transport has warned UK nationals living in EU countries that they could  be required to retake their driving test in the EU country, in which they reside, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

  • MP’s will vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement later this evening, with expectations that the government will suffer a significant defeat.
  • The Sun newspaper has reported that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Theresa May that the EU could offer further concessions on the withdrawal agreement if it is rejected by MP’s.
  • The German government has denied the reports in The Sun newspaper, stating that Chancellor Angela Merkel gave no assurances whatsoever that went beyond what the European Council discussed in December and what was stated in the letter to the PM from the Presidents of the European Commission and Council.
  • Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has warned that MP’s could damage faith in democracy if they failed to back Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
  • Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Mass has suggested that new talks between the European Union and the UK government could be held if MP’s rejected the withdrawal agreement. However, Mr Maas seemed to rule out any significant changes to the agreement.
  • Opinion polls have shown that the PM’s withdrawal agreement is unpopular with the public. A weekly poll conducted by YouGov has shown the PM’s deal has never enjoyed more than 27% of the public’s support, while at least 42% of the public were opposed to the deal.
  • Theresa May’s government suffered the biggest Commons defeat in history over the withdrawal agreement, with MP’s voting 432-202 against the withdrawal agreement.
  • Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government after MP’s voted by a majority of 230 votes to reject the government’s flagship policy. The government agreed to make time available to debate the motion, with MP’s debating and voting on the motion tomorrow.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

  • EU officials have appealed to the UK to provide clarity on what it wants from the EU, after MP’s resoundingly rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK and EU.
  • Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has said in speech to the European Parliament that the EU would be prepared to move and change its position if the UK was prepared shift its redlines, potentially to a more softer Brexit, as favoured by many MP’s.
  • Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, seemed to rule out any talks between the PM and leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. Mrs May stated she would listen to MP’s and that the government would contact senior Parliamentarians on finding out through the Brexit deadlock, after her Brexit deal was rejected by MP’s. However, Ms Leadsom seemed to rule out that Mr Corbyn would be amongst the senior Parliamentarians the government would be reaching out to, stating that the Labour leader had “nothing to say”.
  • Theresa May wins the vote of no-confidence in her government by a majority of 19 MP’s.
  • Theresa May held cross-party talks with leaders of other parties on finding a way forward on Brexit. However, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has refused to hold talks with the PM unless she ruled out a no-deal Brexit, which the PM has refused to do.
  • Chancellor Phillip Hammond has indicated that the government would be open to talks over the UK staying in the Customs Union in a conference call with Business leaders after the MP’s voted down the government’s Brexit deal.

Thursday 17 January 2018

  • The Irish accounting watchdog, the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority, has written to the UK largest audit firms urging to begin their no-deal preparations. The watchdog confirmed if the UK left without a deal, the auditors would need to register with the Irish authorities as third country auditors to continue working in Ireland.
  • Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish government, has stated that a second referendum could only take place with a “four nation lock”, whereby the referendum result would only be valid if all four parts of the UK voted the same way. Ms Sturgeon has argued these protections were needed to prevent some parts of the UK being pulled out of the EU against their wishes.
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has again repeated his calls for the PM to take no-deal off the table, as a pre-condition to talks.
  • The Green party MP Caroline Lucas has stated, after talks with the PM, that the PM believes she can get her deal through the Parliament with tweaks. Ms Lucas confirmed that the PM has refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit and was not hugely receptive to the idea of extending Article 50.
  • Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that the party would consider all other options, including a second referendum, if the government remains “intransigent” and does not call a general election or does a design deal which Labour can support.
  • The French government announces a €50 million contingency plan to help deal with the chaos at its ports and airport in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
  • Government confirms that it will table a Plan B motion in the House of Commons on Monday 21 January 2019, as required by the Grieve amendment. However, MP’s will not get the opportunity to vote on it until Tuesday 29 March 2019.
  • Official guidance by the government suggests it would take a year to organise another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. However, the government’s time frame has been rubbished by supports of a second referendum. Sir Vince Cable has claimed it would take half the time suggested in the guidance to hold a second referendum.
  • UK government has put army reservists on standby for call-up as part of its preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
  • Leaked Whitehall memo shows that the UK will not have finalised most of the 40 trade deals, currently enjoyed as part of the UK’s membership of the EU, by the time the UK is due to leave. The memo warned that most of the trade would lapse on 29 March if the UK leaves without a deal.

Friday 18 January 2019

  • A number of leading German figures, including the leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (and Anglea Merkel’s likely successor) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehman, have appealed to the UK to stay in the European Union.
  • The European Parliament’s legal service have said that the UK’s membership of the EU could be extended beyond the summer of 2019 without requiring the UK to take part in European elections in May or undermining the European Parliament. One of the arguments advocated by those who oppose Article 50 being extended is that the UK would have to take part in elections for the European Parliament if Article 50 was extended beyond July 2019, when the new Parliament is scheduled to be convened.
  • Eurosceptic Tory MP’s have threatened to abstain or vote against government business if Theresa May pursues a softer Brexit with the support of Labour, which would bring the government effectively to halt.
  • Conservative backbench MP and former minister Nick Boles will put forward a bill forcing the government to delay the UK’s exit from the EU unless consensus could be found amongst MP’s on how to proceed.
  • In a speech Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, has claimed that it would be “overwhelmingly likely” that the EU would negotiate a withdrawal agreement which did not include the controversial Irish backstop. Mr Johnson also claimed that the half of the £39 billion divorce bill (for liabilities incurred by the UK  during its membership of the EU) should be retained as leverage until a free trade agreement was concluded.
  • Nigel Farage has said he is ready to contest the European elections in May if Brexit is delayed. Mr Farage also told leave supporters that they should prepare for another referendum.

Saturday 19 January 2019

  • Car insurance premiums are rising for the first time since 2017, partly due to the 
  • Former prime minister Sir John Major has called on Theresa May to become a mediator in order to help break the Brexit deadlock in Parliament. Sir John said that Mrs May should offer MP’s a series of votes on the all the Brexit outcomes to determine what Parliament wants. Sir John also called on the PM to drop her red lines in the national interest
  • Cabinet minister involved in the cross-party talks in Whitehall on how to break the Brexit deadlock have indicated that they are prepared to examine plans for a second referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU according to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable.

Sunday 20 January 2019

  • MP’s will attempt to the force the government to stop a no-deal Brexit and to hold a series of “indicative votes” to see if any Brexit proposal could commands support from a majority of Parliamentarians when the PM presents her Plan B to MP’s on Monday.  MP’s are looking to table a number of amendments including one which would force the government to extend Article 50 until the end of 2019 if there was no deal in place before the end of February. Another amendment put forward by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve would allow MP’s to hold “indicative votes” to determine which Brexit option could command a majority in Parliament.
  • Downing Street has said it is extremely concerned at reports that MP’s could attempt to override the government to suspend or delay Article 50 in their efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Downing Street appealed to Brexiteers MP’s to support the PM’s deal, warning otherwise, that Parliament could block a no-deal Brexit
  • International trade secretary Liam Fox has accused pro-Remain MP’s of trying to steal Brexit and said Parliament should respect the decision the people made in the referendum.
  • Liam Fox has blamed the failure of his department to conclude the 40 trade agreements, which the UK currently benefits from as part of its membership of the EU and that account for 11% of the UK’s trade, on foreign countries for not believing that the UK will leave the EU without a deal.
  • Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour’s policy of demanding another general election to resolve the Brexit deadlock was not “realistic” and that the only way to break the deadlock was a close economic relationship with the EU and a second referendum.
  • EU’s proposals to cap the number of flights between the UK and EU at 2018 levels in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been criticised by the criticised by the aviation industry as “a huge step backwards for all European consumers”.  The director-general of the International Air Transport Association Alexandre de Juniac warned the cap would cause significant disruption with travelers unable to travel and airlines unable to honour booked tickets.

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