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This week in Brexit: 7 – 13 January

Posted by Lotty Reeves on 14th January 2019

It’s been a busy week in the world of Brexit, with the MP’s to vote on Theresa May’s deal on 15 January. Catch up with the happenings of the last week in UK politics: 

Monday 7 January 2019

  • UK’s financial services companies have moved almost £800 billion in staff, operations and customer funds to Europe since the referendum in 2016.
  • The Department of Transport (DoT) began testing its no-deal Brexit preparations. The DoT tested it plans for congestion at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit in Kent, with a test involving 89 lorries being held at a holding bay at a disused airport runway.
  • The Road Haulage Association described the tests by the DoT as “too little too late”. Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said that trial, which 89 lorries, could not possible duplicate the reality of 4,000 lorries that would need to be held at the disused airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, also questioned the usefulness of the DoT’s tests stating that 10,000 lorries visited the Channel ports ever single day and a test involving less than 100 lorries wasn’t even a drop in the ocean. 
  • The government confirmed that MP’s will get the opportunity to vote on the government’s Brexit deal on 15 January 2019. 
  • More than 200 MP’s sign a letter to the prime minister, urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
  • Former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has claimed that a no-deal Brexit from the EU would be closest to the public’s idea of Brexit.
  • The PM has stated that she is trying to get further assurances from the EU on her Brexit deal before MP’s vote on it next week. The prime minister stated there had been “some further movement from the EU” at the European Council meeting in December. 
  • Labour sources confirmed that the party will back an cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill which would restrict the government’s spending powers in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
  • Richard Harrington, the business minister, has threatened to resign from the government in the event of a no-deal Brexit, warning other resignations could follow. 

Tuesday 8 January 2019

  • Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, has confirmed that the EU is ready to provide new “written guarantees, explanations and assurances” to help Theresa May win the support of MP’s in backing the Brexit deal.
  • Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, has dismissed claims in the Telegraph that UK official has been “putting out feelers” about extending Article 50. Mr Barclay said he has not spoken to the EU about any delaying in the UK leaving the EU and reiterated that the UK remained committed to leaving on 29 March 2019.
  • New government website giving advice to businesses and consumers on what to do in the event of a no-deal Brexit goes live today.
  • Amber Rudd, the work and pension secretary, has reportedly warned cabinet colleagues that history will take a dim view of ministers if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. While Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is reported to have compared those MP’s thinking of rejecting the Prime Minister’s deal in the hope of securing a better deal as “swingers in their mid-50’s waiting for the film star Scarlett Johansson to turn up on a date”.
  • The mayor of Ostend has told the BBC that the Belgian port would not be ready in time for a new service to operate between the port and Ramsgate. The new ferry service is part of the government’s plans to ease pressure on the Dover crossing in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Government suffered a defeat on the its Finance Bill, limiting the scope of tax changes in in event of a no-deal unless authorised by MP’s. The defeat signaled there was no majority in the House of Commons for a no-deal Brexit. 

Wednesday 9 January 2019

  •  The government has admitted that a ferry company at the centre of a controversial government contract will not be ready to provide ferry services until late April, several weeks after the UK has left the EU. Seaborne Ferries was awarded a £13.1 million contract to provide additional ferry services between the Belgian port of Ostend and Ramsgate as part of the government’s plan to ease congestion at the Dover crossing. However, the company currently has no ships.
  • The government suffered its second defeat in 24 hours, after MP’s voted to require the Prime Minister to present fresh plans to MP’s within three days if the government’s Brexit deal is rejected.
  • Labour’s Barry Gardiner has said the party would put forward a motion of no confidence in the government immediately, should it the lose the meaningful vote on Tuesday.
  • Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, accused the prime minister of not listening to the critics of her Brexit deal and putting forward a plan to Parliament which was already “dead”. Ms Foster also dismissed the prime minister’s proposals to given Stormont a veto over new EU rules if the backstop took effect.
  • Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, became the most senior Labour figure to suggest that the article 50 process may need to be extended if the deadlock in Parliament could not be broken. 

Thursday 10 January 2019

  • Theresa May is reported to be considering giving extra protections to workers and the environment in an attempt to win support from Labour MP’s for her Brexit withdrawal agreement. The Prime Minister met a number of Labour MP’s in Leave-supporting constituencies in an attempt to shore up support for the withdrawal agreement.
  • Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to cut up to 5,000 jobs from the its UK workforce as part of a £2.5 billion cost-cutting plan. Among the reasons cited by industry insiders for the job losses was the concerns surrounding the UK’s competitiveness post-Brexit. 
  • Jeremy Corbyn seemed to rule out an immediate no confidence vote should the prime minister lose the vote on her Brexit deal, saying he will call for a vote of no confidence “at the moment we judge it to have the most chance of success”. 
  • Honda UK has announced plans for to close it Swindon factory for six in April as part of its preparations for any disruption post-Brexit. Meanwhile, Toyota has said it has “no contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit”.
  • On a trip to the UK, the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has said Japan fully supported the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU. Mr Abe stated the deal provided legal stability for businesses which had invested in the UK. Mr Abe also stated that the whole world wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit .
  • Prime minister Theresa May has reached out to union leaders in an attempt to win support from Labour MP’s for the withdrawal agreement, ahead of the meaningful vote on Tuesday. Mrs May contacted Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and the GMB general secretary Tim Roache. 

Friday 11 January 2019

  • As part of its no-deal Brexit planning, the Department of Health has confirmed it has signed two contracts to secure warehouse space to store drugs in the event of the UK leaving without a deal. With officials said to be working to secure a third.
  • Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned of a no Brexit if MP’s vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Mr Hunt warned that Brexit could be scuppered as there was no majority in the House of Commons for a no-deal Brexit. 
  • Former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has called on the prime minister to delay Brexit, if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by MP’s, by removing the 29 March 2019 date from law and asking the EU for more time. Mr Grieve also stated that those cabinet ministers who opposed leaving the EU without a deal had a “duty to resign” if the Prime Minister failed to delay Brexit.
  • Head of the business group the Confederation of British Industry, Carolyn Fairbairn, has warned in a speech to businesses that a no-deal Brexit could not be managed and that the government’s proposals on a future immigration scheme fell far short of what the economy required. Ms Fairbairn also stated that the “myth” that businesses turned to foreign labour because they were too lazy to invest in UK workers needed to be confronted and argued such generalisations and stereotypes hampered honest debate.
  • As part of the government’s no-deal preparations, thousands of civil servants from departments such as education, welfare and justice are to be asked to volunteer to move to other departments. Education officials are reportedly being asked to volunteer to be redeployed to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

Saturday 12 January 2019

  • Former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, has backed calls for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. Lord Hattersley has said those who voted to leave the EU had no idea what it would mean.
  • Former Irish prime minister John Burton has said the UK’s approach to Brexit meant that it had decided to tear up the Good Friday Agreement. Mr Burton argued that a no-deal Brexit would lead to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Sunday 13 January 2019

  • Military planners have been redeployed to various Whitehall departments including Transport, the Home Office and the Foreign Office as officials attempt to avoid backlogs and chaos at the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • The European Commission has written to the remaining 27 member countries asking them to explain, as a matter of urgency, how airlines licensed in their countries will comply with the rules on ownership.
  • Jeremy Corbyn again seemed to rule out tabling a motion of no confidence immediately in the government, should it lose the meaningful vote on Tuesday. Mr Corbyn stated that Labour would table the motion “soon”. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Corbyn seemed to suggest, that should Labour form the next government, his preference would be to renegotiate a new Brexit deal rather than calling a second referendum, as wanted by a majority of Labour Party members.

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