Brexit Brief Newsletter Issue 1/2017

October 2017

NEW INTERPARLIAMENTARY FORUM ON BREXIT

The first meeting of a new Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit met at the House of Lords on 12 October 2017.  The forum comprises attendees representing committees scrutinising different aspects of Brexit from the House of Lords, House of Commons, Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales.  Officials from the Northern Ireland Assembly attended as observers. 

The House of Lords European Union Committee, in its report on Brexit: devolution, recommended that the structures for interparliamentary dialogue within the United Kingdom should be strengthened, to support more effective scrutiny of the Government’s handling of Brexit.

This meeting, hosted by the House of Lords and chaired by the Senior Deputy Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, along with the Acting Chair of the EU Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme, is the first of what is intended to be series of regular interparliamentary meetings as the Brexit process develops.

 

PM STATEMENT ON PLANS FOR BREXIT

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement to Parliament on 9 October following her speech in Florence to update the House on the Government’s plans for leaving the EU.  The Prime Minister said “…we want to take a creative and pragmatic approach to securing a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union which spans both a new economic relationship and a new security relationship.” 

On economic partnership, the Prime Minister ruled out models used by other countries as well as the European Economic Area membership and a Canadian style free trade agreement, referring instead to a “unique and ambitious economic partnership”.  On the security relationship she confirmed that the “United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security”.

The Prime Minister talked of ‘a period of implementation’ –  a time limited period when UK will have left the EU and its institutions but that market access for both EU and UK would continue on the current terms and within the current framework of EU rules and regulations.

The Prime Minister’s statement included comments on the three key issues for the Article 50 negotiations:

On citizens’ rights: “…the rights of EU citizens in the UK - and UK citizens in the EU - will not diverge over time, committing to incorporate our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law and making sure the UK courts can refer directly to it.”

On Northern Ireland: “…we have now begun drafting joint principles on preserving the Common Travel Area and associated rights. And we have both stated explicitly we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland – and indeed to everyone on the island of Ireland - to get this right.”

On the financial settlement: “…I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave. The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.  And as we move forwards, we will also want to continue working together in ways that promote the long-term economic development of our continent.  This includes continuing to take part in those specific policies and programmes which are greatly to our joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture – and those that promote our mutual security.  And as I set out in my speech at Lancaster House, in doing so, we would want to make a contribution to cover our fair share of the costs involved.”

 

FIFTH ROUND OF BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS

The fifth round of Article 50 negotiations between the UK and EU took place 9-12 October 2017.  Both the UK Government and European Commission have published position papers on the range of issues to be discussed. 

In his closing remarks, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis MP said “…Now while there is still work to be done, much work to be done, we have come a long way. And it is important to recognise the significant progress we have made since June.”

On citizens’ rights: “… we have made further progress to give British citizens in the EU and EU27 citizens in the UK the greatest possible legal certainty about the future.”

We have also focussed this week on the other remaining issues on which we have not yet arrived at a solution….. These are:

  • the right to bring in future family members;
  • to export a range of benefits;
  • to continue to enjoy the recognition of professional qualifications;
  • to vote in local elections;
  • to move within the 27 as a UK citizen;
  • to leave for a prolonged period and yet continue to enjoy a right to remain or permanent right of residence on return.

These issues are not easy, but we have approached them with a shared spirit of trying to find solutions and both teams will now reflect further on that.”

On Northern Ireland: “…This week we developed the joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area. Our teams have also mapped out areas of cooperation that operate on a North South basis.  ….. there is more work to do here in order to build a fuller picture of how we overcome the challenges to North-South cooperation once the UK has left the European Union.  But I’m pleased to say we have made further progress here.

We have also agreed, based on critical guiding principles which both sides recognise, we will start working on a common understanding on possible commitments and undertakings necessary to effectively protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions.

I said last time that we were determined to tackle the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland by focusing creatively on specific solutions and we have begun to do so.”

On the financial settlement: “…In line with the process agreed at our last round of talks, we have undertaken a rigorous examination of the technical detail where we need to reach a shared view.  This is not a process of agreeing specific commitments - we have been clear this can only come later.  But it is an important step, so that when the time comes we will be able to reach a political agreement quickly and simply.”

Michel Barnier, the Chief Negotiator for the European Commission Taskforce for the Negotiations with the UK said “Theresa May's Florence speech has given these negotiations much needed momentum.  We worked constructively this week. We clarified certain points. But without making any great steps forward.”

On citizens’ rights: “…divergences still exist on the possibility of family reunification and on the exportation of social benefits after Brexit, both of which we want.  For us, for example, it is important that any European citizen living in the UK can – in 10 or 15 years' time – bring his/her parents to the UK, as would be the case for British citizens living in the EU.

In the same vein, an EU citizen who has worked for 20 years in the UK should be able to move to an EU Member State and still benefit from his/her disability allowance, under the same conditions as British citizens in the EU.

Finally, an important point for the Member States of the Union: the UK has informed us of its intention to put in place a simplified procedure which allows citizens to assert their rights. We will study attentively the practical details of this procedure, which should really be simple for citizens.”

On Ireland: “…This week we advanced on the joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area and I welcome this. 

We continued our intensive work on mapping out areas of cooperation that operate on a North South basis on the island of Ireland.  There is more work to do in order to build a full picture of the challenges to North-South cooperation resulting from the UK, and therefore Northern Ireland, leaving the EU legal framework.  This is necessary in order to identify the solutions.

This week, we agreed that the six principles proposed by the EU in September would guide our work on protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.”

On the financial settlement: “…Theresa May confirmed in her Florence speech that the UK will honour commitments it has made during the period of its membership. This is an important commitment.  The UK told us again this week that it still could not clarify these commitments. Therefore, there was no negotiation on this, but we did have technical discussions which were useful, albeit technical.  We are, therefore, at a deadlock on this question. This is extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies.”

 

EUROPEAN COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS ON BREXIT

The European Council summit on 19-20 October focused on the Leaders’ Agenda plans for the next 2 years; on Digital Europe; migration; defence and external relations; and the Brexit negotiations.  The EU27 agreed to begin internal preparatory discussions in relation to the future EU-UK relationship and transitional arrangements – the second phase of the negotiations.  Council President Donald Tusk commented on the “new momentum given by the Florence speech of Prime Minister May” and said “So the negotiations go on, and we will continue to approach them positively and constructively. And as we are all working actively on a deal, I hope we will be able to move to the second phase of our talks in December.”

The EU27 statement on the Brexit negotiations said “(the EU27) acknowledges that, as regards Ireland, there has been some progress on convergence on principles and objectives regarding protection of the Good Friday Agreement and maintenance of the Common Travel Area, and invites the Union negotiator to pursue further refinement of these principles, taking into account the major challenge that the UK’s withdrawal represents, including as regards avoidance of a hard border, and therefore expecting the UK to present and commit to flexible and imaginative solutions called for by the unique situation of Ireland”

 

MEETING OF DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS ON BREXIT

The Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) met on 16 October 2017.  The Committee, chaired by chaired by Rt Hon Damian Green MP, First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office brings together the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  In the absence of Ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive, a senior civil servant from the Northern Ireland Civil Service was in attendance. The Committee last met in January 2017.

The Committee discussed the establishment of common frameworks in areas that are currently governed by EU law, but that are otherwise within areas of competence of the devolved administrations or legislatures.

Amongst the principles which will apply to these frameworks: “…Frameworks will ensure recognition of the economic and social linkages between Northern Ireland and Ireland and that Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK that shares a land frontier with the EU. They will also adhere to the Belfast Agreement.”

 

BREXIT MINISTER VISITS NI

Minister for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker visited Northern Ireland on 29 September 2017 to discuss Brexit with representatives from a number of key sectors in including higher education and business.

“…Because of its land border and shared history with Ireland, Northern Ireland of course has unique issues relating to Brexit that we’ve committed to address as a priority. That’s why we’ve set out our proposals to ensure we protect the Belfast Agreement in the negotiations, and ensure the land border is as seamless and frictionless as possible for people and businesses”.

 

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BREXIT NEGOTIATOR VISITS

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator visited Belfast on 20 September 2017.  He held meetings with the five largest political parties before travelling to the Armagh-Monaghan border to meet community and business representatives.  He spent 21 September in Dublin, meeting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD before appearing before a special meetingof the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence and the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement at the Oireachtas.  The European Parliament will vote on the final deal for the UK withdrawal from the EU.

 

EUROPEAN UNION (WITHDRAWAL) BILL

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which brings EU legislation into UK law and repeals the European Communities Act 1972 has passed second reading at the House of Commons and will be passed to a Committee of the whole House to consider at a date to be announced.  The Committee will be chaired by the deputy Speaker Rt Hon Lindsay Hoyle MP.

To date over 300 amendments and 60 new clauses have been proposed to the Bill.  The Bill will not move to its committee stage until MPs return after autumn recess on 13 November 2017.   The amendments proposed cover a range of issues include the scope of the Henry VIII powers and the impact on parliamentary scrutiny; impact on devolution settlements; and whether Parliament would have a vote on the final deal reached with the EU.  The committee stage debate on the Bill will take place over 8 days.

 

BRITISH-IRISH VIEWS ON BREXIT

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly held its 55th plenary in Liverpool on 16-17 October 2017.  BIPA’s membership includes representatives from the UK Parliament, the Houses of Oireachtas, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. Brexit was the focus of the plenary with sessions on the future of the Irish border and implications for trade. The session included addresses by Chloe Smith MP, Under-Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office, and Robin Walker MP, Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union.

 

NI ASSEMBLY RESEARCH & INFORMATION SERVICE

Research and Information Services (RaISe) has created an online Brexit Hub which gathers together information and links to resources on the subject of Brexit and Northern Ireland. This includes information on: events; EU Matters; RaISe blog posts; and a link to the ‘Brexit and Northern Ireland: A Reading List’, which was last updated on 5 October 2017.

The seventh series of the Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS) was launched on 2 October and the first KESS event, held on 25 October, addressed a range of issues relating directly to Brexit.

 

YOUTH PERSPECTIVES ON BREXIT

The All Party Parliamentary group on a Better Brexit for Young People has produced a report ‘UK Youth Perspectives and Priorities for Brexit Negotiations’.  The report was conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.  The APPG serves as a structured engagement platform between young people and decision-makers to get the best deal for young people in the Brexit negotiations.

 

CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY ON BREXIT

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit took place in September 2017.  It is part of the part of the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  The members, who were selected to reflect the diversity of the UK’s electorate, spent the weekends learning from a range of experts across the leave/remain spectrum about the different options and trade-offs involved in leaving the EU. The members deliberated and agreed on recommendations for what form of Brexit the UK government should pursue.

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