Brexit Brief Newsletter

October 2018

It’s been a busy month for your faithful Brexit Brief writer in keeping up with the numerous meetings and statements on the UK-EU negotiations. 

This issue of the Brexit Brief will provide an overview of events since the September issue.  As well as summaries of the latest meetings and statements, you’ll find information on Michel Barnier’s meetings with local politicians and business representatives; on migrant labour in Northern Ireland agriculture, on the Welsh Government’s EU Transition Fund, on the new Agriculture Bill which will make provision for financial support for farmers post Brexit; on a Scottish Government report on Scotland’s place in Europe in light of Brexit; and on how the legislation to implement Brexit is progressing. 

Progress of the negotiations

Informal Council meeting in Salzburg, 19-20 September 2018

An informal meeting of heads of state was held in Salzburg on 19 and 20 September 2018.  The summit was the first time the leaders of the EU28 had met since Prime Minister Theresa May had presented her Brexit proposals in the so-called Chequers plan. The Prime Minister discussed her proposals over dinner after which she left and the leaders of the other 27 EU member states met to deliberate on Brexit issues. 

The following day a number of EU leaders issued statements rejecting the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan.  French President Emmanuel Macron said that Brexit shows “it’s not so easy to leave the EU, it’s not without a cost, it’s not without consequences … [Chequers] is not acceptable because it doesn’t respect the integrity of the Single Market.”  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “We’ve already come a long way with the Withdrawal Agreement.  We still have a lot of work to do regarding the future relations and the necessary political declaration.  Today we were all agreed that there can be no compromises on the Single Market.  You cannot be part of the Single Market if you are not a member of the Single Market."

As it was an informal summit no formal written conclusions were published however EU Council President Donald Tusk did publish remarks;

“At our EU27 working lunch today we had a good discussion on Brexit, which once again reconfirmed our full unity. Let me highlight three points.

First, we reconfirmed that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally binding Irish backstop. And we continue to fully support Michel Barnier in his efforts to find such a model.

Second, we agreed to have a joint political declaration that provides as much clarity as possible on the future relations. Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work. Not least because it risks undermining the Single Market.

Third, we also discussed the timetable for further negotiations. The moment of truth for Brexit negotiations will be the October European Council. In October we expect maximum progress and results in the Brexit talks. Then we will decide whether conditions are there to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalise the deal.”

The Prime Minister responded with a statement on 21 September saying “I have always said that these negotiations would be tough - and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.”  The Prime Minister said that the two main issues where the UK and the EU remain a long way apart are the future economic relationship post Brexit and the border on the island of Ireland. 

She stated that the EU is offering only two options on the future relationship - staying in the EEA and a customs union with the EU or a basic free trade agreement which would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market - and that she rejects both of these options.  She also rejects the EUs backstop proposal which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the Customs Union.

“Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.  At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals.  So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”

 

Prime Minister meets European Parliament Brexit Coordinator, 24 September 2018

Following a meeting on 24 September 2018 with Guy Verhofstadt MEP, Brexit coordinator at the European Parliament, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government would bring forward further proposals on the Northern Ireland backstop.

 

President of European Council meets Taoiseach, 4 October 2018

President of the European Council Donald Tusk met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on 4 October, after which he said “….the task of the EU's negotiators is to defend the interests of the European Union as a whole, and of all the 27 member states. We very much regret that the UK has decided to leave, and we hope for the best relationship in future, but no-one can expect that, because of Brexit, the EU will give up its fundamental values and key interests. Let me make this clear: the EU wants a relationship with the UK that is as close and special as possible. From the very beginning, the EU offer has been not just a Canada deal, but a Canada+++ deal. Much further-reaching on trade, on internal security and on foreign policy cooperation. This is a true measure of respect. And this offer remains in place. The EU is serious about getting the best possible deal. Even though we haven’t changed our minds that the consequences of Brexit will be negative, for both sides.”

 

Brexit Secretary’s statement to the Commons, 9 October 2018

Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab gave a statement on 9 October to the House of Commons on the progress of the negotiations to leave the EU and on the Government’s planning for a no deal scenario:

“On the withdrawal agreement, while there remain some differences, we are closing in on workable solutions to all the key outstanding issues

On the Northern Ireland protocol, we remain committed to the undertakings we made in the joint report back in December to agree a backstop in case there is a delay between the end of the implementation period and the entry into force of the treaty on our future relationship. That was agreed to avoid any risk of a return to a hard border in the intervening period, but we will not accept anything that threatens the constitutional or economic integrity of the United Kingdom. Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which is what the EU had proposed, would put that at risk and that is unacceptable. As my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister said, it is not something that she, nor any British Prime Minister, could agree to. We are engaging with the EU on our alternative proposals that preserve the integrity of the UK. They will be in line with the commitments we made back in December, including the commitment that no new regulatory barriers should be created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree.

I remain confident that we will reach a deal this autumn because that is still in the best interests of the ​United Kingdom and the European Union……...While we intensify our negotiations to secure the deal we want and expect, we are also expediting preparations for no deal in case the EU does not match the ambition and pragmatism that we have shown.”

 

European Commission Brexit Negotiator’s speech, 10 October 2018

During a speech on 10 October 2018, European Commission Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier said that 80-85% of the Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed with the UK but acknowledged that some difficult issues have been left to the end.  On the need to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, Mr Barnier said that as the UK wants to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, there must be new checks on goods travelling between EU and the UK – customs and VAT checks; and compliance checks on standards etc. – and that the EU and UK have agreed that these checks cannot be performed at the border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Barnier said that the EU proposes to carry out these checks in the least intrusive way possible:

“For customs and VAT checks, we propose using the existing customs transit procedures to avoid doing checks at a physical border point. To be more specific:

  • Companies in the rest of the UK would fill in their customs declarations online and in advance when shipping goods to Northern Ireland.
  • The only visible systematic checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would involve scanning the bar codes of the lorries or containers, which could be done on ferries or in transit ports.
  • These arrangements already exist within EU member states, in particular those with islands, for example between mainland Spain and the Canary Islands.

For regulatory checks, on industrial goods for instance, these could be carried out by market surveillance authorities.

  • Again, this would not need to happen at a border but directly in the market or at the premises of companies in Northern Ireland.

This leaves the health and phytosanitary checks for live animals and products of animal origin. EU rules are clear: such checks must happen at the border because of food safety and animal health reasons. And obviously, in the future the island of Ireland will and must remain a single epidemiologic area.

  • Such checks already exist in the ports of Larne and Belfast.
  • However, they would have to cover 100 % rather than 10 % of live animals and animal-derived products, which would involve a significant change in terms of scale.

Both the EU and the UK exclude having a physical border on the island of Ireland. Therefore, what will arrive into Northern Ireland will also be arriving into the Single Market.

There will be administrative procedures that do not exist today for goods travelling to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Our challenge is to make sure those procedures are as easy as possible and not too burdensome, in particular for smaller businesses.”

Mr Barnier said…. “our proposal gives Northern Ireland benefits that no part of a third country enjoys. In particular, continued access to the Single Market for goods and continued benefits from the EU free trade agreements.

Our proposal also includes the continuation of the island's Single Electricity Market, as requested by the UK.”

Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier met on 14 October in a move which was expected to pave the way for a declaration of progress at the Council meeting on 17 October and agreement to call an extraordinary council meeting in November to sign the withdrawal deal.  The meeting however failed to break the deadlock. 

 

Prime Minister’s statement to the Commons, 15 October 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement to the House of Commons on 15 October on the current state of the play with the Brexit negotiations. 

“Perhaps most significantly, we have made progress on Northern Ireland, on which the EU has been working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had about its original proposals.

[the] backstop is intended to be an insurance policy for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Previously, the European Union had proposed a backstop that would see Northern Ireland carved off in the EU’s Customs Union and parts of the Single Market, separated through a border in the Irish sea from the UK’s own internal market. As I have said many times, I could never accept that, no matter how unlikely such a scenario might be.

…. After Salzburg, I said that we would bring forward our own further proposals, and that is what we have done in these ​negotiations. The European Union has responded positively by agreeing to explore a UK-wide customs solution to this backstop, but two problems remain.

First, the EU says that there is not time to work out the detail of this UK-wide solution in the next few weeks, so even with the progress we have made, the EU still requires a “backstop to the backstop”—effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy—and it wants this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that it had previously proposed. We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom

…. Secondly, I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say that this backstop is a temporary solution. People are rightly concerned that what is only meant to be temporary could become a permanent limbo, with no new relationship between the UK and the EU ever agreed. I am clear that we are not going to be trapped permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals. “

In response to calls for a second referendum – the so-called ‘people’s vote’ - the Prime Minister said “We had a people’s vote. It was called a referendum and the people voted to leave.”

 

Cabinet meets 16 October 2018

A full meeting of the Cabinet was held on 16 October following which a spokesperson said:

“[May] said we have made progress on a huge number of issues in the negotiations but there remain sticking points in two key areas. The PM said it is not possible for her or any UK Prime Minister to sign up to an agreement that would lead to a customs border down the Irish Sea. She said we also need to ensure that we do not have a situation where the UK can be kept indefinitely in the backstop against our will ...

The Cabinet strongly supported the Prime Minister over the importance of maintaining the integrity of the union. The Cabinet also agreed that we must be able to ensure that we cannot be kept in the backstop arrangement indefinitely.

The PM said there will no doubt be challenging moments ahead. That is in the nature of negotiations. She said she is committed to securing a Brexit that delivers on the referendum result, safeguards jobs and security and which preserves our union.”

 

European Council meeting, 17-18 October 2018

The EU Council met on 17-18 October 2018.  Theresa May was given 30 minutes to address the other member states to give the UK Government’s assessment of the negotiations following which the EU27 discussed how to take the negotiations forward, on the basis of a recommendation from chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. 

Prime Minister May told EU leaders that she was willing to consider extending the implementation (or transition) period in order to resolve the outstanding issue of the border in Ireland.  The transition period, which is designed to smooth the way to a defined future relationship between the UK and EU, is due to finish on 31 December 2020.

The Prime Minister said “What has now emerged is the idea that an option to extend the implementation period could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland,” Mrs May said. “We are not standing here proposing an extension to the implementation period. What we are doing is working to ensure we have a solution to the backstop issue in Northern Ireland, which is currently a blockage to completing the deal.”

Reacting to her proposal, Council President Donald Tusk said "if the UK decided an extension of the transition period would be helpful to reach a deal, I am sure the leaders would be ready to consider this positively".

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said extension of the transition period "will probably happen" saying it was a good idea because it would allow more time to draw up a long-term relationship between the UK and the EU.

 

Prime Minister’s statement to the Commons, 22 October 2018

Prime Minister May made a statement on the October Council meeting to the House of Commons on 22 October.  She said that 95% of the withdrawal agreement has been agreed with the border issue being the main sticking point.  The Prime Minister outlined four steps to break the impasse:

“First, we must make the commitment to a temporary UK-EU joint customs territory legally binding so that the Northern Ireland-only proposal is no longer needed. This would protect relations not only north-south but, vitally, east-west. This is critical. The relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is an integral strand of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, so to protect that agreement we need to preserve the totality of relationships it sets out. Nothing we agree with the EU under article 50 should risk a return to a hard border or threaten the delicate constitutional and political arrangements underpinned by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

The second step is to create an option to extend the implementation period as an alternative to the backstop. I have not committed to extending the implementation period. I do not want to extend the implementation period, and I do not believe that extending it will be necessary. I see any extension or being in any form of backstop as undesirable. By far the best outcome for the UK, for Ireland and for the EU is that our future relationship is agreed and in place by 1 January 2021. I have every confidence that it will be, and the European Union has said it will show equal commitment to this timetable, but the impasse we are trying to resolve is about the insurance policy if this does not happen.

What I am saying is that if, at the end of 2020, our future relationship is not quite ready, the proposal is that the UK would be able to make a sovereign choice ​between the UK-wide customs backstop or a short extension of the implementation period. There are some limited circumstances in which it could be argued that an extension to the implementation period might be preferable if we were certain it was for only a short time. For example, a short extension to the implementation period would mean only one set of changes for businesses at the point we move to the future relationship, but in any such scenario we would have to be out of the implementation period well before the end of this Parliament.

The third step is to ensure that, were we to need either of these insurance policies, whether the backstop or a short extension to the implementation period, we could not be kept in either arrangement indefinitely. We would not accept a position in which the UK, having negotiated in good faith an agreement that prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland, none the less finds itself locked into an alternative inferior arrangement against its will.

The fourth step is for the Government to deliver the commitments we have made to ensure full continued access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market. Northern Ireland’s businesses rely heavily on trade with their largest market, Great Britain, and we must protect this in any scenario.”

 

Meaningful vote

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab sent a letter and six-page memorandum to the House of Commons Procedure Committee on 10 October detailing how the Government plans to facilitate a vote on the withdrawal deal.  The letter suggests that the vote will be a straight choice between the deal and a no-deal Brexit.

The Government wants the motion before the House to be a straight question to approve or reject the Brexit deal before any amendments are considered. Critics of this approach say this presents MPs with a ‘take it or leave it’ choice as the House would have no say on the next steps for the Government and if the deal was approved by the House then no amendments could be discussed.

 

No deal Brexit preparations

The Government published further batches of technical notices on preparations for a no deal Brexit on 24 September and 12 October 2018. To date 105 notices have published on the themes below:

  • Applying for EU-funded programmes (9)
  • Driving and transport (8)
  • Farming and fishing (7)
  • Handling civil legal cases (1)
  • Importing and Exporting (15)
  • Labelling products and making them safe (17)
  • Meeting business regulations (11)
  • Money and tax (2)
  • Personal data and consumer rights (3)
  • Protecting the environment (5)
  • Regulating energy (6)
  • Regulating medicines and medical equipment (6)
  • Regulating veterinary medicines (3)
  • Sanctions (1)
  • Satellites and space (1)
  • Seafaring (2)
  • State aid (1)
  • Studying in the UK or EU (1)
  • Travelling between the UK and the EU (5)
  • Workplace rights (1)

 

Michel Barnier meets Northern Ireland political and business representatives

Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier met a joint delegation on 5 October 2018 which included Michelle O'Neill, leader of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly; Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, Steven Agnew, leader of the Green Party, and Stephen Farry, deputy leader of the Alliance Party. 

On 9 October 2018, Michel Barnier met with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Diane Dodds MEP.  He also held a meeting with UUP leader Robin Swann and Jim Nicholson MEP.

A delegation of Northern Ireland business representatives was invited to meet with Michel Barnier and the Article 50 Taskforce on 8 October including representatives from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Manufacturing NI, the Freight Transport Association and the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association. 

The group discussed the backstop and the logistical and practical implications for businesses which trade throughout the UK, EU and internationally.  Some members of the delegation also provided evidence to the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee on 24 October 2018 as did an academic from Queen’s University Belfast and a policy analyst from Open Europe.

 

Brexit and devolution

Head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling spoke on 'Brexit without Ministers - Managing change in Northern Ireland' on 17 September 2018 in Brussels

 

The Joint Ministerial Forum (EU negotiations) met on 11 October 2018.  The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations (JMC(EN)) was established to be the central forum for engagement between the UK and devolved governments on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  Its terms of reference state that the governments will work collaboratively through the JMC(EN) to:

  • Discuss each government’s requirements of the future relationship with the EU;
  • Seek to agree a UK approach to, and objectives for, Article 50 negotiations;
  • Provide oversight of negotiations with the EU, to ensure, as far as possible, that outcomes agreed by all four governments are secured from these negotiations; and
  • Discuss issues stemming from the negotiation process which may impact upon or have consequences for the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government or the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Ministerial Forum (EU negotiations), a sub forum of JMC (EN), met on 22 October 2018.  The four principal agenda items at the meeting were an update and discussion of the latest state of EU negotiations; the UK Government’s proposal for cooperative accords; the cooperative accord for science and innovation; and the cooperative accord for culture and education.

The Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit held its fifth meeting on 25 October 2018 at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff.  Senior politicians, representing the committees leading on the scrutiny of Brexit in the House of Commons, House of Lords, Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, met to discuss the state of the Brexit negotiations and consider how the governments and legislatures of the UK are working together in the interests of the citizens they serve. 

The Forum concluded that more effective intergovernmental and interparliamentary mechanisms are required to examine the future sharing of powers in order to deliver UK-wide policies in areas currently governed by European Union frameworks.  The Forum wrote to David Lidington MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office on issues of interparliamentary and intergovernmental relations.

David Lidington MP had previously provided a written update on intergovernmental activity on Brexit to the Interparliamentary Forum on 8 October 2018.

 

British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, 22 October 2018

Speaking at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London on 22 October, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley said “We are committed to everything we have agreed to in the joint report and we will ensure there is no border on the island of Ireland,”

 

New NIAO report on Northern Ireland and EU exit

The Northern Ireland Audit Office published a report ‘The UK Border: how prepared is Northern Ireland for EU exit?’.  The Comptroller and Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, said “In the absence of certainty around the policy positions of the UK government in respect of the border, trade, customs, migration and the repatriation of powers from Brussels – all matters reserved to Westminster – Northern Ireland’s capacity for comprehensive operational planning is severely constrained. Planning to manage the risks in respect of those areas where powers are devolved to the NI Assembly is ongoing. However in respect of those areas where policy is reserved, Northern Ireland is not well prepared for leaving the EU without a deal.”

 

Agriculture Bill

The Government published the Agriculture Bill on 12 September as well as a joint statement from the UK and Welsh Governments  on an update on the progress of developing an agricultural policy framework.  The Bill sets out how financial support for farmers will be managed after Brexit, with farmers being paid in future for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding  

The first meeting of the Commons Public Bill Committee examining the Agriculture Bill was held on 23 October and the Committee expects to issue its report on the Bill by 20 November 2018.

The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee published its report on the Agriculture Bill on 17 October and expressed a number of concerns including the extent of delegation of powers to Ministers and the lack of detail in relation to future legislation. 

“We are dismayed at the Government’s approach to delegated powers in the Agriculture Bill.

a)       The Agriculture Bill represents a major transfer of powers from the EU to Ministers of the Crown, bypassing Parliament and the devolved legislatures in Wales and Northern Ireland.

b)      Parliament will not be able to debate the merits of the new agriculture regime because the Bill does not contain even an outline of the substantive law that will replace the CAP after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. Most debate will centre on delegated powers because most of the Bill is about delegated powers. At this stage it cannot even be said that the devil is in the detail, because the Bill contains so little detail……”

The House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has published a report into post-Brexit agricultural policy, and expresses disappointment at the UK Government's "insufficient" approach to the specific concerns in Northern Ireland. 

 

Fisheries Bill

The Government introduced the new Fisheries Bill to Parliament on 25 October 2018.  Announcing the publication of the Bill, the Government said;

“At its heart the Bill delivers on the UK Government’s commitment to sustainable fishing and marine conservation as set out in the 25-Year Environment Plan by:

  • Controlling access – by ending current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. In future, access to fish in UK waters will be a matter for the UK to negotiate and we will decide on the terms – foreign vessels would have to follow our rules.
  • Setting fishing opportunities – by proposing powers to ensure that the UK can set its own fishing quota and days at sea, which it will negotiate as an independent coastal state. As now, the UK Government will consult the Devolved Administrations.
  • Protecting the marine environment – by ensuring fisheries management decisions are taken strategically for the benefit of the whole marine environment. The Bill extends powers to the Marine Management Organisation and the Devolved Administrations to protect our seas.

The new legislation also proposes ways in which the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations will work together to adopt common approaches to fisheries management in certain areas - including preserving UK vessels’ right to fish across the four zones of UK waters and creating a consistent approach to managing access of foreign vessels.

The four fisheries Administrations will set out in a joint statement how they will work together to achieve the Bill’s sustainability objectives.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

This new Fisheries Bill will allow us to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for all of the UK. It will regenerate coastal communities, take back control of our waters and, through better conservation measures, allow our precious marine environment to thrive.

The Common Fisheries Policy has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and our precious fish stocks. The Bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.”

 

Migrant labour in Northern Ireland Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) released the report on ‘Migrant Labour in NI Agriculture’ on 2 October 2018.  The statistics were compiled from a survey of farm businesses completed in November 2017 and presents results for the agricultural sector on migrant labour including non-seasonal and seasonal workers plus country of origin information. Some of the key findings are;

  • On 1 November 2017, an estimated 1,404 non-seasonal and seasonal workers from outside the UK and Ireland were employed in agriculture in Northern Ireland.
  • Using June Agricultural Census employment figures, the 1,404 migrant workers equate to 20% of the paid agricultural workforce.
  • Almost all the responses from farm businesses with migrant labour stated that migrant labour was important to their business.
  • Horticultural farms were the most likely farm type to employ migrant labour with approximately 70% of the estimated migrant labour used on these farms.
  • 32% of non-seasonal migrant workers present on 1 November 2017 were from Bulgaria with 28% from Lithuania and 16% from Poland.

 

Trade flows between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The UK Government has sent the data requested by Mr Barnier detailing the volume of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The data showed that of the 1.8 million heavy goods vehicles crossing the Irish Sea every year, 55% were travelling between UK and Ireland and 45% between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The data also showed that most trade between GB and NI was not done by big business but involved everyday trade, with 70 per cent of goods destined for the high street.

 

Brexit and Northern Ireland – research project reports

BrexitLawNI, a collaborative Economic and Social Research Council funded research project between the Law Schools of Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) launched a series of project reports on 14 September 2018.  The reports examine the consequences of Brexit in Northern Ireland on the themes of the Northern Ireland peace process; North-South relations; border controls and free movement in and between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain; xenophobia and racism in Northern Ireland; the impact on socio-economic rights; and wider human rights and equality issues.

 

Welsh Government preparations for Brexit

The Welsh Government launched the Business Wales Brexit Portal on 25 September 2018.  The Welsh Government describes the two objectives of the Brexit Portal as:

  • First, to provide up-to-date information and advice on a range of relevant business topics (including trading internationally and workforce planning) as we enter the six-month period leading up to the UK’s departure from the EU.
  • Second, to provide a diagnostic tool which will enhance our existing support to businesses, raising awareness of appropriate preparedness actions and additional sources of support. This will provide a health check for those businesses already prepared or identifying key actions for those that may need more support.

Over half of the Welsh Government’s £50 million EU Transition Fund has been committed including £3 million for Airbus to ensure their workforce are up-skilled and prepared post-Brexit.

 

Scottish Government plan for Scotland’s future in Europe

Scottish Government published ‘Scotland's place in Europe: our way forward’ on 15 October 2018.  The Scottish Government describes the document - “The paper sets out why the Chequers proposals will not work; details recent external analysis of the UK Government’s proposals and sets out why either a no-deal Brexit or a blindfold Brexit will be so damaging. It sets out a clear plan for resolving these issues, through the UK’s long-term membership of the European Single Market and Customs Union and urges the UK Government to adopt this.”

 

Committee inquiries on Brexit issues

The inquiry tracker on the Brexit Brief page on the Northern Ireland Assembly website contains details of parliamentary inquiries on Brexit related issues across the House of Commons, House of Lords, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Oireachtas.  Inquiries are grouped by theme and you can find links to open calls for evidence, evidence gathered so far and reports on a range of subjects. 

 

Statutory instruments to prepare for EU exit

The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 confers powers on Ministers to make a broad range of legislative amendments to deal with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Act contains a ‘correcting power’ that enables corrections to be made to law to make it work appropriately after the UK has left the EU. The Act also contains an ‘implementing power’, which is a limited power to enable the withdrawal agreement to be implemented as appropriate. The correcting power and the implementing power have been conferred on:

a) UK Government Ministers,

b) devolved authorities, or 

c) a UK Government Minister acting jointly with one or more devolved authorities.

The devolved authorities will only be able to exercise the powers within their areas of devolved competence, as defined in the EUW Act. UK Government Ministers, however, may act in all areas, including those within devolved competence. The Government has stated that it will not normally do so without the agreement of the relevant devolved authority.

With exit day less than one year away, and in the continued absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, UK Government has stated that ‘in the interest of legal certainty in Northern Ireland’, the UK Government Ministers will, in close consultation with the Northern Ireland departments, take through at Westminster the necessary secondary legislation for Northern Ireland.

A blog by the Hansard Society states that the UK Government expects to lay around 800 Statutory Instruments (SIs) to prepare the statute book for exit day and to date 82 Brexit-related SIs have been laid since the EU (Withdrawal) Act received Royal Assent in June 2018. Of these:

  • 59 have been laid using powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 only;
  • 12 have been laid using powers in other Acts of Parliament;
  • 11 have been laid using a combination of powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and in other Acts of Parliament.

The first statutory instrument specifically for Northern Ireland has been published - The Planning (Environmental Assessments and Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2018 - has been prepared by the Department for Infrastructure.

 

Brexit legislation

The Government is introducing a suite of legislation to deal with Brexit.  A summary of the status of some of this legislation is below. A full list of Bills before Parliament is available here

  • Agriculture Bill – undergoing scrutiny by a Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons.  The Committee continues to meet and is expected to report to the House by 20 November 2018
  • Animal Welfare (Sentencing and recognition of sentience) Bill – not yet introduced.          Consultation responses to draft Bill published August 2018
  • Fisheries Bill – introduced to Parliament on 25 October 2018. Date for second reading not yet scheduled.
  • Immigration Bill – not yet introduced.  White Paper expected autumn 2018
  • Trade Bill -  Committee Stage in the House of Lords to be scheduled
  • EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – not yet introduced

Acts of Parliament (i.e. are now law)

  • EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018
  • Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018
  • Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018
  • Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018
  • Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018

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